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Armed Services Likely to Back Overturning ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Updated: 1:12 p.m.

The Senate Armed Services Committee likely will vote Thursday to ban the military’s controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, according to Senate aides, a key hurdle for Democrats hoping to enact the change.

The language will be in an amendment offered to the defense authorization bill, which the committee will take up starting Wednesday.

While Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reiterated his opposition to the ban Wednesday, moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) gave her crucial support Tuesday to the amendment.

“This is a reasonable compromise, and I will support it when it is considered by the Senate Armed Services Committee this week,” Collins said in a statement.

The amendment will be offered by Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), a close confidante of the Maine Republican.

“We are increasingly confident about the Lieberman compromise and that this could very well be a historic week in the United States Congress,” Lieberman spokesman Marshall Wittmann said.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is expected to oppose the measure, but other moderates on the Armed Services panel, including Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), will provide crucial support when the amendment is considered, probably on Thursday. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) is likely to support the amendment as well.

Lieberman, Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) announced earlier this week that they struck an agreement on the issue with White House officials and leaders at the Defense Department. The House is also likely to move this week as well to lift the 1993 policy that bans openly gay service members from serving in the military.

Graham, an Air Force reservist since 1995, said no action should be taken until the Defense Department completes its yearlong review of the impact a ban on “don’t ask, don’t tell” would have on the military.

“This so-called compromise would repeal the legislation first then receive input from the military,” Graham said. “This is not the proper way to change any policy, particularly something as controversial as ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.'”

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