WASHINGTON — In a direct challenge to Republicans who support the "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said he would push ahead with a military policy bill that includes language authorizing the Pentagon to repeal the ban.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, led his colleagues in blocking consideration of the bill in September in part because it allowed the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. McCain has not changed his position, and Democrats had been considering stripping the provision to advance the legislation.
But the White House on Wednesday repeated President Barack Obama's commitment to repealing the ban. In a statement later in the day, Reid said he would bring the bill to the floor, with the repeal language in place. "We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so," Reid said.
Senate Democratic aides said Reid wouald try to take up the bill sometime in December, meaning after the Pentagon is due to release a report on how it would carry out a repeal. The report includes a survey of active-duty forces and their families, which shows that a majority do not care if gay men and women serve openly.
That report is due Dec. 1.
On Wednesday Reid announced that he would also push to bring up a bill that would create a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as small children.
Reid tried to attach the legislation as an amendment to the military policy bill before the midterm elections, but Republicans blocked the bill, in part because they said that he was using it as a political prop to appeal to Hispanic and gay voters in his re-election campaign in Nevada.
In his race, Reid promised he would try again to pass the immigration measure, known as the Dream Act. And in a statement Wednesday he said he would try to do so as a stand-alone bill.
The legislation would give legal residency to immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and lived here for at least five years, graduated from high school and completed two years of college or military service.
In a statement, Reid said: "If there is a bipartisan bill that makes sense for our country economically, from a national security perspective and one that reflects American values, it is the Dream Act. This bill will give children brought illegally to this country at no fault of their own the chance to earn legal status."