AC360° Digital Producer
(CNN) – One of the Senate’s most outspoken proponents of repealing the military’s policy barring gay men and lesbians from serving openly said Wednesday that he has more than enough votes to roll back the Clinton-era policy even in the face of a filibuster.
And, sounding a note of the harsh political realities as Republicans prepare to take over the majority in the House and increase their numbers in the Senate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, also said that repeal of the “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy should be considered before the New START agreement on nuclear arms reduction because if repeal legislation is not passed now, it stands no chance of passage in the upcoming 112th Congress.
On Wednesday evening, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine became the fourth Republican senator to publicly declare her support for a repeal. With Snowe’s backing, supporters of a repeal appeared to have 61 votes, one vote more than the 60-vote threshold necessary in the Senate for putting an end to a filibuster and allowing a vote.
In an interview that aired Wednesday night on Anderson Cooper 360°, Lieberman said he believes there are actually 62 votes in favor of a repeal.
“We’ve got 61 votes,” the independent senator told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “I’ve been saying this. People thought I was puffing, but I knew I had those votes, and I know I’ve got at least one more Republican who will come with me. In the Senate, you don’t need 51, you need 60. We’ve now got 61, and I believe 62.”
Later in the interview, Lieberman also told Cooper that he thought the remainder of the lame-duck session presented the best opportunity for a repeal to be passed.
Related: Senate votes to take up START pact
“I really believe . . . this is the next most important and urgent thing to do” after passage of a bill extending the Bush tax cuts and a spending bill necessary to keep the government functioning, Lieberman said. “I think it’s more important than passing the START treaty right now which can be done in January or February.”
Lieberman told Cooper that consideration of START could be done early next year in a manner that would allow the additional time sought for debate by key Republican senators.
“Let me just talk straight, hard political reality,” Lieberman told Cooper, “if we don’t pass repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in this 111th session of Congress, the new Congress, I’m afraid, is not going to repeal it. And then we’ll have to depend on the courts to repeal it.”
Lieberman added that Defense Department Secretary Robert Gates has told Congress he believes a legislative repeal is preferable to a change in policy resulting from litigation, because Gates believes a policy change directed by Congress could be carried out in a more orderly fashion by the military.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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