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Senate to take up DADT tonight; procedural measure expected to fail

From NBC's Ken Strickland and Carrie Dann
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will “likely” force a procedural vote late this afternoon to take up a bill that contains the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

But Democrats are unlikely to get the 60 votes they need to start debate on the Defense Authorization measure that addresses the 17-year old ban on gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

“It won't happen,” a Republican leadership aide flatly told NBC News.

This morning on the Senate floor, Reid said, "I'm likely going to move to my motion to reconsider on the Defense Authorization Act this evening." If the vote happens, it would follow a series of votes currently scheduled to begin at 4pm ET.

But Republicans, who have vowed to block any bill except legislation to extend the Bush era tax cuts or fund government operations from coming to the floor, are expected to filibuster the measure.

In a letter last week signed by all 42 Republicans, GOP leader Mitch McConnell wrote that his caucus “will not agree to [allow debate on] any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.”

Following two days of hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, it appears that there may be bipartisan support to repeal the ban. Republican Scott Brown announced his support after the hearing. Democrat Mark Pryor, who previously opposed repeal, announced Wednesday that he will support the measure now.

But until the Senate disposes of the tax cut bill and government spending bill, it's highly unlikely the defense bill will make it onto the floor. And it is unclear that there would be enough time to finish the large and complex authorization bill and other legislative Democratic priorities before Congress adjourns for the holiday.

Also Wednesday night, the Senate is expected to hold “cloture votes” – requiring 60 yea votes – on a measure regarding 9/11 firefighters and an immigration bill that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who attend college or serve in the military.

Those votes are also expected to fail.