Will 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' End This Year?

The military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy on sexual preference was created 18 years ago this month, and it could end before the year is over.

As Congress enters its lame duck session next week, gay-rights activists expect Democrats to hold a vote on ending the policy, the second such vote since September.

Do enough senators support ending the ban for Democrats to be able to end it? Yes.

Will they succeed in doing so? Maybe.

A repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is included in the Defense Authorization bill, which Republicans filibustered in September. Democrats came three votes shy of overcoming that filibuster and forcing a vote.

One Democrat--Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who lost her re-election bid last week--voted against the bill but said she'd be willing to support a repeal if the Pentagon's internal review, due to the president's desk by Dec. 1, indicated that the policy could be lifted with minimal risk. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the report would, indeed, say as much.

The future of Don't Ask, Don't Tell could come down to something that has very little to do with policy: unrelated Defense amendments.

Two Republicans--Sens. Susan Collins and George Voinovich--said in September that they sided with the GOP filibuster because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, rushing to bring the Defense Authorization bill up for a vote before the midterms, hadn't allowed sufficient amendments to be debated and voted on.

If Reid can reach an agreement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on how many amendments to offer, those Republicans could vote to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the end.

The timing will be tricky. With other votes expected to come up before the Defense bill, and with the requisite debate on amendments taking potentially two weeks, the House and Senate may have to stay in session longer than planned, in order to reconcile the two chambers' versions of the bill. The House has already passed a Defense bill that includes repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Gay-rights activists have not been in contact with Reid since the midterm elections, but they expect to hear early next week that a vote on Don't Ask, Don't Tell will indeed happen before Congress leaves.

With Republicans coming into power in the next Congress, it appears to be now or never.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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