Update: The Senate rejects 56-43 a motion to debate the defense authorization bill, which includes language to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Check back for more updates this afternoon.
With a scheduled Senate vote just moments away on a defense authorization bill that could repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Democrats seem unlikely to have the 60 votes necessary to stop an expected Republican filibuster.
With a vote scheduled for 2:15 p.m., it remained unclear how key moderate Republicans and Democrats would vote on the measure, which Sen. John McCain of Arizona has promised to filibuster. A Monday rally in Maine with pop sensation Lady Gaga yielded no firm indication from Sen. Susan Collins -- Tuesday morning she suggested she would she would not vote to take up the underlying defense bill unless it was open to all amendments senators want to offer -- while a statement from the state's other Republican senator, Olympia Snowe, seemed to dash hopes of a vote for repeal.
On the contrary, an op-ed Tuesday morning in The Wall Street Journalfrom Bret Stephens argued that a Republican vote for repeal could be a moral and strategic victory for the party.
"Republican senators are now bellyaching that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to jam the repeal amendment into a bill they have no real choice but to vote for," wrote Stephens. "They should be silently thanking him. He's giving them the chance to do the right thing while blaming the Democrats for it. It's a GOP twofer, plus a vote they'll someday be proud of."
The votes of Richard Lugar of Indiana and George Voinovich of Ohio, both Republicans, were still considered in play. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the position of moderates such as Jim Webb of Virginia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska appeared uncertain by Tuesday morning.
But the White House issued a brief statement Monday night that hardly could be considered a rallying cry to senators on the fence.
"The National Defense Authorization Act is a good bill that is important for the overall health and well being of our forces, especially given the ongoing campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world," said the statement. "This legislation received bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the President hopes it receives similar bipartisan support in the Senate."