DADT Repeal Far From Certain Despite House Vote

Despite last week’s House vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the ultimate fate of the policy is far from certain and is tied up with a military appropriations bill that has it’s own problems:

It is true that last week, both the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee added provisions to their annual defense authorization bills that would allow the Pentagon and the president to remove the ban on gays serving openly in the military once a study — due Dec. 1 — is completed.

But, for starters, the Senate bill has to pass.

That’s not typically an issue for the measure that sets military policy and has passed every year for decades — often by wide margins.

But there’s nothing typical about this year’s version.

For one thing, it’s highly partisan. Only two Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, voted for the bill. Even Arizona Sen. John McCain, the committee’s ranking Republican voted against it and was a no-show at the morning-after press conference that is a ritual for the leaders of the committee.

In a Senate where the most innocuous bills require a 60-vote majority for consideration, a bill containing “don’t ask, don’t tell” could slow the process even further.

The biggest problems, though, could come from other controversial provisions in the bill:

The Senate bill is full of controversial provisions, some of which will have to be reconciled with the House version. It would:

• Pull authority to fund construction of a military detention facility in Thomson, Ill., to replace the prison at Guantanamo Bay and restrict the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to countries where Al Qaeda has an active presence.

• Cut half the amount of money requested to assist the Iraqi security forces at a time when the U.S. is pulling most of its troops out of the country.

• And include an amendment by McCain that would require Gates to send 6,000 National Guard troops to the U.S. Mexico border — the same language that was defeated last week as an amendment to the war supplemental in a vote of 51-49.


Even if the Senate bill passes, the House must weigh a pesky defense acquisition issue involving engines for the Joint Strike Fighter, signaling a heavily lobbied high-stakes brawl.

The House bill includes $485 million to make engines built by General Electric, in addition to ones already built by Pratt & Whitney. The Senate version doesn’t include the funding, but the committee chairman said he would support the House version when the two bills come to reconciliation.

That last item could prove to be the most difficult problem because the White House has said it will veto the bill if it contains the appropriation for the second JSF engine.

In the end, the appropriations bill will probably pass in some version, if only because defense bills rarely die in Congress. However, between the delays, the upcoming Senate action, and the inevitable Conference Committee, it’s entirely possibly that the final form of DADT repeal still has not been set.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.