TPM News

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who has emerged as the Senate's pointman on ending the military's ban on openly gay servicemembers, told reporters today that he's "very optimistic" repeal will be voted into law as soon as this weekend.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a cloture vote on Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal for tomorrow morning. Lieberman said today he's "confident" he has the 60 votes (and then some) necessary to get cloture on the DADT repeal bill and move it to a final vote.

But Lieberman -- who would only confirm Republican yes votes from Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) -- is not popping the champagne corks yet.

"We know that it ain't over till it's over," Lieberman said, "and until all the votes are counted."

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Sen. Jim DeMint and Jon Kyl would have you believe that its "sacrilegious" to hold so many votes around Christmas time. Not according to a number of Christian leaders, who harshly criticized the Republicans for invoking Christmas as an excuse to avoid votes.

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In what promises to be a bizarre pairing, CNN and the Tea Party Express are joining forces to co-host a Republican presidential primary debate in September 2011.

The Tea Party Express' hits have been no stranger to TPM's pages. Over the summer, for example, Tea Party Express' Mark Williams said the NAACP's use of the word "colored'" makes the organization racist. Williams, who was an occasional guest on CNN, was eventually forced to resign from the Tea Part Express.

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Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is planning to hold hearings on the "radicalization" of American Muslims when he takes over the chair of the Homeland Security Committee next year, the New York Times reports.

King told the Times he's concerned that Muslim-American leaders are increasingly reluctant to help out with the government's terror investigations.

"When I meet with law enforcement, they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders," King said.

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This afternoon, a group from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization that helps gay and lesbian servicemembers deal with the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, will come to Capitol Hill to help push more Senators to back the standalone DADT repeal bill. On their list of targets, surprisingly, is Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND).

I asked the SLDN why. They told me it was because Conrad has never made a "positive statement" backing the standalone bill. So I asked Conrad's office for a positive statement. And they declined to say anything about Conrad's position on the standalone bill, positive or negative.

This could be a big deal -- if Conrad turns out to be a no, his vote would throw off the math on the standalone bill and endanger repeal at the last second.

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Stephen Colbert last night continued his coverage of the nation's war on Christmas, calling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) -- who is urging Congress to continue working through the holidays -- the "albino raisin who stole Christmas."

Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) has said it would be impossible to complete all the work Reid wants to accomplish during the holidays "without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians, and the families of all the Senate." And Colbert agrees.

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Late last night, Harry Reid's plan to get the federal government funded through the end of the fiscal year went up in flames, burning months and months of work by Senate appropriators and their staffs. To avert a government shutdown, Reid agreed to work out a federal funding plan with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- Congress will agree to continue funding the government at its current levels through some yet-to-be-determined point next year. The "continuing resolution" will likely pass the Senate in a blink, the lights will stay on, and then they can move on to other priorities: The DREAM Act, Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal, and START.

Here's how last night's melodrama impacts policy and the politics on Capitol Hill:

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski's office (R-AK) confirms to TPM that she will vote to break a filibuster on a standalone Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal bill, even though it will come up before legislation to fund the government. The entire Republican caucus had promised not to vote for anything before tax cuts and spending bills but, after the omnibus spending bill was pulled last night, it appears enough Republicans will break that promise.

Murkowski's commitment means the Senate still has 60 votes to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- even though the bill will come up before the Senate votes on spending measures. Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has also confirmed that he will vote for the standalone bill.

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