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"Don't Ask" Repeal Deal May be Imminent

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Updated 10:08 p.m. Eastern

Gay rights groups met with White House and congressional leaders this morning to discuss a potentially-imminent repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

The impetus for the meetings is a push in Congress, which passed the measure under President Bill Clinton, to add a repeal of the policy to the upcoming defense authorization bill.

Repeal "had been on a slow track awaiting completion of a Pentagon study at the end of this year," reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin. "Gay rights proponents and their Democratic allies on Capitol Hill and in the White House have decided it's now or not for a very long time since the elections this fall are expected to bring in a more conservative, more Republican Congress."

On Thursday, as the Washington Post reports, the Senate Armed Services Committee will vote on adding the repeal provision to the bill; the House may also vote on the matter this week.

While repeal could pass via the defense authorization bill, it would reportedly not go into effect under the pending deal until after the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff review an ongoing Pentagon study into the impact of repeal. That review is set to be completed by December 1st.

The president and military brass must approve moving forward after the review comes back, and implimentation of repeal could take years.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen has already called ending the policy "the right thing to do," and President Obama has vowed repeal.

According to the Advocate, a Statement of Administration Policy on the issue is expected this week.

It is not clear that there are enough votes to attach a repeal to the defense authorization bill. Sen. Carl Levin, the chair of the Armed Services Committee, is believed to be at least one vote short of the 15 votes he needs, though up to six senators are reportedly wavering.

"The Pentagon was caught flat footed by this sudden change in the legislative landscape and officials are scrambling to figure out whether they are for or against the compromise - and whether there are enough votes on the Hill to pass it," reports Martin. 

Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Rep. Patrick Murphy sent a letter today to Mr. Obama urging him to support their "legislative proposal...that puts a process in place to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' once the working group has completed its review and you, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that repeal can be achieved consistent with the military's standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention."

"It is our firm belief that it is time to repeal this discriminatory policy that not only dishonors those who are willing to give their lives in service to their country but also prevents capable men and women with vital skills from serving in the Armed Forces at a time when our Nation is fighting two wars," they write.

The White House said they support the Democrat's legislative amendment to repeal "Don't Ask" even though it would have been ideal to wait until the review was finished.

"The Administration is of the view that the proposed amendment meets the concerns raised by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Peter Orszag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget for the White House wrote in a letter to Lieberman. "The Administration therefore supports the proposed amendment."

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