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"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," DREAM Act, Head to Senate for Votes This Weekend

Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., talks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

After abandoning on Thursday night a $1.3 trillion omnibus Senate spending bill, Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid filed cloture for the DREAM Act and a stand-alone repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - both of which are now expected to reach the Senate for final votes as early as this weekend.

Reid, faced with receding Republican support for the spending bill (not to mention threats to read it aloud in its 1,924-page entirety), turned his attention instead to two bills that liberal Democrats hope to push through in the final days of the lame duck congressional session.

The Senate is now expected to vote on debate for both the DREAM Act and a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on Saturday morning, and the Washington Post reports that final votes on both bills could take place as early as Sunday or Monday.

The Saturday vote on "Don't Ask" will be Senate Democrats' third attempt this year to eliminate the policy, which prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military, and many believe it the best - and possibly last - chance to repeal the measure before a newly Republican-heavy Congress convenes in 2011.

"I want to thank Senator Reid for his leadership in bringing the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010' to the Senate floor for a vote," said Independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, one of the bill's sponsors, in a recent statement. "I am confident that we have more than 60 votes to end this law that discriminates against military service members based solely on their sexual orientation. Repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will affirm the Senate's commitment to the civil rights of all Americans and also make our military even stronger."

The most recent attempt to repeal "Don't Ask," which was tied to a larger defense spending bill, is believed to have failed as a result of procedural objections by moderate conservatives like Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who has said he would vote for repeal - but not until Congress had passed a tax plan.

Upon the passage early Friday morning of a sweeping bipartisan tax bill, however, Democrats expect they now have the necessary 60 votes to avoid a filibuster and pass the bill.

Republican Sens. Brown (who on Thursday confirmed his willingness to vote for the bill), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) have said they would support the bill, and all but one Democrat - West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin - is believed to be in favor of voting for repeal.

The prospects of the DREAM Act, however, are less clear. The measure, which would provide undocumented young people with pathways to American citizenship, has inspired criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, and a Senate vote on the legislation was recently delayed due to lack of sufficient support for passage.

Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.
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