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Key vote on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' tomorrow

From NBC's Ken Strickland
As of late this morning, it's still unclear if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the 60 votes needed to start debate on a bill that would include a repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT)" language is tucked inside the larger Defense Authorization bill. The vote on "the motion to proceed" to the bill is scheduled for Tuesday at 2:15p.

Moderate Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, who often vote with Democrats on social issues, remain undecided on how they'll vote. As a member of Armed Services Committee, Collins voted with Democrats to include DADT in the defense bill. (And in case you didn't notice, the two are being heavily lobbied to support DADT by Lady Gaga, who's speaking at an event in Maine today. Lady Gaga also spoke today with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, according to the senator's office; Gillibrand supports repeal.)

While Collins and Snowe are question marks, most Republicans are expected to vote against bringing it to the floor.

There's two primary reasons why: one about policy, and the other about politics.

On policy, Republicans say Congress shouldn't repeal the ban until the military has completed a review of the issue.

"Democrats have decided to put their own political interests ahead of the collective judgment of our military service chiefs, who are still in the midst of a study about whether [DADT] can be repealed without hurting combat readiness," Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

Virginia Democrat Sen. Jim Webb also subscribes to that view. He voted with Armed Service Committee Republicans last May to exclude it from the bill. If he votes with the GOP Tuesday, Reid will need at least two Republicans to produce 60 votes.

The other Republican objection is one of politics. McConnell and others feel that Reid is calling up Democratic campaign issues and forcing Republicans to vote against them through a rushed process. Reid said he also plans to attach an immigration measure to the defense bill that would give young illegal immigrants a path to citizenship--the Dream Act.

"Unfortunately, the Democrats' whole game plan over the past year and a half and through today is to tick as many items as possible off their liberal wish list while they have a chance," McConnell said.

But even if Reid is able to produce the 60 votes to get the defense bill to the floor Tuesday, he said last week that it is unlikely the Senate will able to complete its work on the bill before adjourning for the pre-election recess.