WASHINGTON — A proposal to step up the repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military but still allow the Pentagon time – perhaps even years – to implement new policies was being discussed Monday by administration officials and gay rights activists.

The White House had hoped lawmakers would delay action until Pentagon officials had completed their study so fellow Democrats would not face criticism that they moved too quickly or too far ahead of public opinion in this election year. Instead, administration officials now expect Congress to move ahead this week, although advocates on both sides say it’s not clear there are enough votes to lift the 1993 ban.

Under the proposal emerging from talks at the White House, Congress would remove the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” law even as the Pentagon continues a review of the system. Implementation of policy for gays serving openly would still require the approval of President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen. How long implementation might take was not known.

Activists met at the White House through the day with administration officials who are trying to broker a compromise. Policy aides to Democratic leaders met Monday morning to discuss the potential deal, and top Democratic lawmakers planned to meet Monday evening.

Hoping to secure those votes, Democrats described a compromise that would add the repeal to the annual defense spending bill but delay its implementation until after the Pentagon completes its study.

The emerging compromise was described by officials and activists involved in the process, speaking on condition of anonymity because there were still details to be finalized.

Obama called for the repeal during his State of the Union address this year, and Gates and Mullen have echoed his views but have cautioned that any action must be paced.

The administration has said any repeal should start in Congress and have military leaders’ backing. Gay rights activists criticized the administration as Obama did little to push for a repeal during his first year in office.

On Capitol Hill, the third-ranking House Republican vowed unified GOP opposition to lifting the ban. “The American people don’t want the American military to be used to advance a liberal political agenda. And House Republicans will stand on that principle,” said Mike Pence, R-Ind.

Pence urged Democrats who control both chambers to wait until the Pentagon finishes its review of what a repeal would take.