Update: Unable to secure needed Republican support, Senate Democrats decided Wednesday to postpone a planned make-or-break vote on starting debate on repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly gay and lesbian soldiers from the military. Watch AC360° tonight at 10pm ET for the latest.
Dana Bash and Ted Barrett
Senate Democrats indicated they would hold a make-or-break vote Wednesday on starting debate on repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly gay and lesbian soldiers from the military.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told reporters he is talking to one moderate Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, to try to secure her support. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has been calling senators in both parties to urge their support, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.
"I think we are very, very close to seeing that repeal pass," Gibbs told reporters, adding: "The president is encouraging Democrats and Republicans to get behind that repeal."
To open debate on the measure, Senate Democrats need 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. Currently, the Senate Democratic caucus has 58 votes - 56 Democrats and two independents - though it was not clear if every one of them would support a repeal.
For example, newly elected West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who is completing the term of the late Sen. Robert Byrd, told CNN he was uncertain how he would vote on the issue. Therefore, the Democrats may need more than two GOP senators to join them in voting to open debate.
However, most Senate Republicans oppose repealing "don't ask, don't tell." In addition, all 42 of the GOP senators have pledged to block action on any measure before the chamber deals with extending Bush-era tax cuts and authorizing government spending for the rest of the fiscal year.
The Democratic strategy appeared to be to try to persuade Collins to vote for opening debate on the measure so that the two other Republicans who also have expressed support for a repeal - Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska - also might do so. Murkowski announced her support for a repeal in a statement Wednesday.
Aides to Reid said that with little time remaining in the lame-duck session of Congress and Christmas recess approaching, the vote Wednesday would almost certainly be the last chance to consider the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" this year.
Democrats are pushing for action now because the new Congress in January brings a Republican-controlled House and a diminished Democratic majority in the Senate, which will make repealing "don't ask, don't tell" more difficult.
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