Friday, Nov. 19, 2010 | 3:18 p.m.
Sen. John Ensign may be about to play a role he doesn’t take on too often in the Senate — the swing vote Democrats need to get a filibuster-proof majority.
In a letter sent to constituents and obtained by the Washington Post, Ensign signaled that he supported a repeal of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military. (RELATED: Election Commission won’t punish John Ensign for cash to mistress)
“It is my firm belief that Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be able to fight and risk their lives in defense of this great nation," Ensign wrote in the letter, partially reprinted in the Post.
Support for the end of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" doesn’t necessarily translate into a vote for the repeal, however.
Congress voted against moving forward on the defense authorization bill in September, a vote that hinged mostly on lawmakers’ feelings about a repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," which was written into the bill.
Maine Republican Susan Collins said then that she supported the concept of a repeal, but would vote against it because she didn’t like the tactics Democrats were using to limit the number of amendments that could be attached to the legislation.
Ensign did mention in the letter that he’s still waiting for the Defense Department to conclude its official survey of the military’s attitudes about repealing the policy.
The report from that survey is due out Dec. 1; a schedule that may free up other GOP lawmakers as well to back the repeal without having to fully pivot away from their previous positions. Many Republicans said they preferred to reserve judgment about repealing "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" until the survey was complete.
Early leaked results indicate that about 70 percent of respondents felt ending the policy would not affect the military negatively.