U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, says she's willing to support the repeal of the military's ban on openly gay service members.
In a prepared statement, Snowe said that she will vote for a new stand-alone bill co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that would eliminate the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The policy, enacted in 1993, keeps gay and lesbian servicemen and servicewomen from serving openly in the military.
Snowe's announcement follows her vote against the repeal during last week's surprise roll call vote in the U.S. Senate. At the time, Snowe said her opposition was based on procedural grounds because the repeal was included in the Defense Reauthorization bill.
Snowe's support comes with a condition that the Senate ratify the Bush-era tax cuts before taking up the "don't ask" law.
“After careful analysis of the comprehensive report compiled by the Department of Defense and thorough consideration of the testimony provided by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the service chiefs, I support repeal of the 'don’t ask, don’t tell' law," Snowe said.
"However, as was stated in the letter I signed along with all of my Republican colleagues to the majority leader on Dec. 1, we must first fund the government beyond Dec. 18, and prevent the largest tax increase in our nation’s history from affecting all Americans on New Year’s Day before addressing other legislation," she said.
Snowe and Collins have signed a letter pledging to block all business before the Senate unless the Bush tax cuts are extended. The pledge relates to legislative items.
U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who co-sponsored the repeal with Collins, indicated that Snowe's support would give the bill the 60 votes it needs to pass to avoid a Republican filibuster.
Following the U.S. House of Representatives vote Wednesday to repeal "don't ask," Lieberman and Collins issued a joint statement urging the Senate to do the same.
Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Scott Brown of Massachusetts are the other GOP senators who have voiced support for the repeal. Like Snowe, Murkowski and Brown have said they will not vote for it until the Senate finishes work on both tax-cut legislation and the bill to fund the government.
Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has said he would bring the "don't ask" repeal to the floor before the end of the lame-duck Congress, it's unclear whether he'll have time to do so given the Senate's full agenda, which also includes ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.