Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Passes The House, Advances In The Senate
Congress moved two steps closer to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell late Thursday evening.
First, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the repeal amendment on a largely party-line vote:
Equal rights activists scored a major victory today, as the Senate Armed Services committee voted 16-12 to give the Pentagon the power to overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell–a policy that bans openly gay people from serving in the military. However, numerous obstacles still remain, including an explicit threat from multiple Republicans that they’ll filibuster the legislation when it reaches the Senate floor.
Maine Republican Susan Collins joined 15 Democrats in adopting the repeal plan as an amendment to the 2011 Defense Authorization Act, which should receive a floor vote next month. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) was the lone Democrat to vote ‘no’ with the Republicans. The House is expected to adopt similar language later tonight or tomorrow.
Then, later in the evening, the House of Representatives approved the amendment repealing the bill, also on a largely partisan vote:
WASHINGTON — The House voted Thursday to let the Defense Department repeal the ban on gay and bisexual people from serving openly in the military, a major step toward dismantling the 1993 law widely known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The provision would allow military commanders to repeal the ban. The repeal would permit gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military for the first time.
It was adopted as an amendment to the annual Pentagon policy bill, which the House is expected to vote on Friday. The repeal would be allowed 60 days after a Pentagon report is completed on the ramifications of allowing openly gay service members, and military leaders certify that it would not be disruptive. The report is due by Dec. 1.
The House vote was 234 to 194, with 229 Democrats and 5 Republicans in favor, after an emotionally charged debate. Opposed were 168 Republicans and 26 Democrats.
Supporters of the repeal hailed it as a matter of basic fairness and civil rights, while opponents charged that Democrats and President Obama were destabilizing the military to advance a liberal social agenda.
The five Republican yes votes were Louisiana’s Joseph Cao, newly elected Hawaii Congressman Charles Djou, Illinois Congresswoman Judy Biggert, Florida’s Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, and Ron Paul.
Given Susan Collins’s yes vote in Committee, it seems unlikely that Senate Republicans will be able to sustain a filibuster on the Senate floor, although, of course, anything is possible. In all likelihood, though, we’re witnessing the end of a political saga that began in the opening days of the Clinton Administration some seventeen years ago.