DADT repeal set for Senate vote

A new showdown is set for this weekend over legislation to repeal the Pentagon’s ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, after saying earlier today that he didn’t forsee a vote before Christmas, turned around and scheduled a possible Saturday vote on overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, as the Pentagon’s ban is known.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and lead proponent of the bill, had pressed Reid to push ahead for a quick vote, fearing that it could otherwise be squeezed off the congressional calendar. Reid’s reversal came after he yanked a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill from the Senate floor late Thursday night amid Republican opposition.

Instead of debating that measure, he said, Democrats would push a short-term stop-gap spending bill and move to an immigration proposal and the DADT repeal.

Lieberman said he’s confident he has the votes to overcome a likely GOP filibuster. “We’ve got 61 declared votes now,” he said Thursday.

Ratcheting up his push to get a quick vote, Lieberman on Thursday likened Republican opposition to overturning DADT to 1950s and 1960s-era filibusters of civil rights laws. He said some Republicans-who he did not name-have threatened to force unending debate on the START Treaty, the nuclear arms pact, as a way to push the DADT repeal off the Congressional calendar.

“I’ve heard rumors that some of our colleagues opposed to repeal [of DADT] have said they’d block the new START treaty if Sen. Reid brings up Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Lieberman told reporters.

“This is basically taking hostage a very important nuclear arms treaty to stop a civil rights measure,” he said. “And when you don’t have 40 votes to do that, you can threaten something like that but that takes us way back to an earlier day, when people used to do things like that to stop civil rights laws from passing. I hope we’re passed that day now.”

Asked for a response, Don Stewart, a spokesman for the Senate Republican Leader, said: “I don’t have anything on nebulous rumors about unnamed Senators.”