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Dems to push 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal in lame-duck session

From Adam Levine, CNN
The military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy has been a contentious issue for years.
The military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy has been a contentious issue for years.
  • President Obama says a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is "the right thing to do"
  • A report on the impact of a repeal is due December 1
  • Republicans indicated they will block any vote in the lame-duck session

Washington (CNN) -- The president and the top Senate Democrat signaled Wednesday they would try during the lame-duck session at the end of the year to push for a repeal of the military ban against openly gay troops serving in the military, but the hurdles for success loom large.

The Democrats failed to get enough votes this fall to move on the repeal, but are likely to try to bring it up again after the military completes its assessment of the impact of a policy change, which is due to Defense Secretary Robert Gates by December 1.

The president said he still believes repealing "don't ask, don't tell" is "the right thing to do" but will wait to review the military assessment.

"But that will give us time to act in -- potentially during the lame-duck session to change this policy," the president said at a White House news conference on Wednesday, in response to a question from CNN Sr. White House Correspondent Ed Henry.

Fresh off his own election victory, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told reporters Wednesday that he and Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, would like to take up the issue when the Senate returns in November and December, attaching a repeal to the Department of Defense authorization bill.

But Reid said that unless Republicans agree to limit debate, getting the vote would be difficult.

Given that the Democratic majority dropped dramatically in Tuesday's elections, Republicans, many of whom object to the repeal, are unlikely to cooperate.

In addition, the limited time of the session, which starts November 15 and is likely to end around Christmas, means the repeal will be competing with other Democratic priorities for consideration.

Already, the Republican widely expected to be the next House Armed Services chairman signaled that Republicans are not on board with trying to push for a vote in the last few weeks of the current session, while the Democrats are just a few votes shy of pushing it through.

"Republicans on both sides the Capitol are committed to passing a National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 that is not weighed down by the current majority's social agenda items," said Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-California, in a statement released Wednesday morning.

Before the election, the top Republican on the Armed Services committee, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told an Arizona television station he would "absolutely" filibuster any attempt to vote "until we have a thorough and complete study on the effect of morale and battle effectiveness."

"The reason they tried to ramrod it through the Senate is they knew that the Senate will look different next January," McCain said on 12 News' "Sunday Square Off" on October 17. "I will filibuster or stop it from being brought up."

CNN congressional producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.