Gay rights advocates went on high alert Thursday afternoon after Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), a key proponent of repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, said that he believes Senate Republicans can kill the defense authorization bill containing the repeal – a step Sen. John McCain has already threatened to take.
“The question is whether the Senate leadership can negotiate an agreement with the Republicans that will allow the bill to come up and get them to feel that they can introduce amendments that they want to introduce as well,” Lieberman said in an interview with Kerry Eleveld of the Advocate, a web site and magazine for the gay community. “But until that happens, I don’t think the votes are there to break the filibuster, which would be a shame.”
McCain (R-Ariz.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, declared he will block the defense bill if the “don’t ask, don’t tell” language isn’t stripped.
Lieberman’s assessment was more negative than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered on Tuesday, when asked if he had enough votes to push the legislation through GOP opposition.
“We’ll sure find out. I don’t know,” Reid said.
Gay rights advocates have assumed that a cloture vote on the bill would be close, but that senators favoring repeal would probably have the upper hand. As a result, Lieberman’s dire prediction caused considerable consternation.
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