WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, confident he will prevail, Thursday set up a showdown vote on a new bid to end the ban against gays serving openly in the U.S. military.
Reid filed a motion to call for a vote Saturday on an effort to clear a Republican procedural hurdle against legislation to end the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell."
Sixty votes would be needed in the 100-member Senate to end the roadblock and move toward passage of the measure, a top priority of President Barack Obama.
"We're confident we have at least 60," a Democratic aide said. A senior Republican aide acknowledged Democrats may well reach that number.
The Senate will vote on the bill that passed the Democratic-led House on Wednesday, 250-175.
At least 13,000 men and women have been expelled from the U.S. military under "don't ask, don't tell," which allows homosexuals to serve in the armed forces as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret. It was implemented in 1993.
If Congress doesn't repeal the policy, the issue may be decided by the courts, where the ban has been challenged.
Obama, along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, wants to do away with the policy, but favors a congressional rather than a court-imposed remedy.
Such action, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell has said, would enable the Defense Department to "carefully and responsibly manage a change in this policy instead of risking an abrupt change resulting from a decision in the courts."
Although Reid is confident he has 60 votes to repeal the policy on gays, Senate aides said he's short of that number on another stalled Obama priority, one on immigration.
Regardless, Reid set a vote on Saturday to try to clear a Republican procedural hurdle against legislation that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship to undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children.
The "DREAM Act" would provide legal residency to undocumented young people who came to the United States before age 16, graduate from high school, complete at least two years of college or military service and have no criminal record.
Republicans reject the bill as unwarranted amnesty and say the United States should focus instead on bolstering border security.
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