Carl Levin will spend Tuesday afternoon whipping up support from his Senate Armed Services Committee colleagues for compromise legislation to repeal the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, the Michigan Democrat told reporters after a meeting with his colleagues.
Levin, the committee chairman, said he wasn't sure if he had the votes. "It's not safe to say the votes are there. I'm hopeful," he said. "I've got a long afternoon ahead of me."
With 16 Democrats on the committee, Levin and the measure's cosponsor, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), can only lose one defector if the 12 Republicans stay united in opposition. Committee member Jim Webb (D-Va.) told reporters Tuesday he was leaning against it. "If you look at what the White House said and you look at what Secretary Gates said, they both said they would prefer to go through the process that Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates announced in February. I don't see any reason to preempt that process," he said after Tuesday's caucus meeting. Asked if that meant he was voting no, he declined to say.
Levin said that he has not spoken to Webb, but that Gates's comments will give it a boost -- rather than hold back the effort -- because the Defense Secretary said that while it would not be the policy he prefers, he does support it.
"I thought it was very supportive, because he said he supports it. A lot of people around here don't prefer outcomes, but they support the outcome. That's what counts," said Levin. "I can't tell you how many times I've voted for something I didn't prefer."
Advocates of repeal are also targeting Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). Nebraska's Nelson said that he would issue a statement announcing his position shortly, though his spokesman said it wouldn't be available until Wednesday. Levin said Nelson of Nebraska has not informed him of his decision.
Nelson of Florida, meanwhile, told reporters that he will back the compromise.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) won't be going along with it, he said, arguing that it makes no sense to "go on and repeal something contingent on studying whether we should." The Defense Department study will be finished on December 1. The compromise would repeal the policy immediately but not implement the repeal until after the study is released.
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), another target of repeal advocates, also told reporters he'll oppose the compromise.
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