McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the Arizona Republican “continues to have discussions” with Levin and that he remains opposed to keeping the repeal in the bill.
Further complicating the matter is the possibility that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may also try to attach an immigration proposal known as the DREAM Act to the authorization. The measure is aimed at giving illegal-immigrant children a path to citizenship if they go to college or join the military.
Last week, when his re-election campaign was in jeopardy, Reid vowed during a Univision interview to tie the provision to the authorization during the lame duck. But when he made the same move in September, the bill went down, along with it a vote on the “don’t ask” repeal.
“The last time we had this vote, the thing that stopped it was not ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” said Christopher Barron of GOProud, a gay rights organization for conservatives.
“If Sen. Levin wants to be the first chairman to avoid not passing a defense bill in 50 years, he doesn’t need to jettison ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ He needs to guarantee that the DREAM Act will not be a part of this,” Barron added.
At least one immigration rights group is giving Reid some wiggle room on how he plans to carry out his promise to Latinos. “Let’s wait for the big guns to sit down and make some decisions,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.
“Right now, the Senate Majority Leader promised, he delivered on that promise in September, he just got re-elected,” Sharry said. “We’ll take it from there.”