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Lieberman sees victory over military gay ban

With a key procedural vote scheduled for Saturday, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) declared Friday that efforts to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military were "on the brink of victory."

Speaking at a news conference with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) and several gay service veterans one day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced he would introduce the repeal effort for the third time this year, Lieberman said he expects it to pass the Senate, and with wider support than had been anticipated.

"I continue to believe that we're going to end up with more support on the Republican side than the four that we've talked about," he said.

Republican Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have announced in recent days that they will vote to let the repeal proceed.

Joining Lieberman at the event were four service veterans who were discharged under "don't ask, don't tell." They planned a sit-in in the Senate visitors gallery, where they expected to remain until the repeal passed, as long as the Senate is in session.

One, Stacey Vasquez, a 12-year Army veteran, said she was anxious about Saturday's vote.

"I'm nervous about what's going to happen tomorrow," Vasquez said Friday. " . . . because this isn't process and procedure to me. It's not just a vote. This is my life."

The Senate will hold a vote Saturday to proceed to debate on a bill that would end the law, Reid has said. A final vote could come later that day or the next.

A bill that included language ending the ban failed last week to earn the 60 votes needed to reach the floor, as did a similar attempt in September.

But now, a filibuster-proof majority appears tenable: Fifty-seven members of the Senate Democratic caucus support a bill to end the ban, as do the four Republicans. Other Republicans could join them on the final vote, aides said.

Most Republican senators are expected to vote against the bill, many saying now is just not the right time and preferring to consider the issue next year.

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