By a vote of 250 to 175, the House of Representatives today passed a stand-alone bill to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). The bill now goes to the Senate.
While the initial repeal measure failed in the Senate, Democrats are now confident they can find 60 votes there to pass this standalone bill. The party is working against time, however. Before they take up the "don't ask" repeal, Senate Democrats are committed to taking up other significant issues, like the ratification of a nuclear treaty with Russia and a government-funding bill. The Senate is attempting to take up all of these matters before breaking for Christmas recess.
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Uh-oh. Now that the full House has voted to approve DADT and the defense funding bill, there may be a monkey wrench in the works.
The House also approved funding for an alternative engine that Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to eliminate. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it's not removed. At issue is "an amendment providing $500 million to continue developing a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter." The Senate version didn't include the engine funding.
The White House warned again on Friday that the president's advisors would push for a veto if the money for the second engine remained in the bill.
What needs to happen: When the bills go to reconciliation, the House engine amendment needs to be dropped.
Also, Secretary Gates told upset members of the military today not to worry, DADT's repeal won't result in changes right away.
"The legislation involved is a deferred repeal," he said. "It would repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,' but only after — I repeat after — the ongoing Department of Defense high-level review is completed."
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President Obama has endorsed a compromise to pave the way for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Under the deal, lawmakers could vote soon to repeal the contentious 17-year-old policy, which bars gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed services; the House Democratic leaders are considering taking up the measure as soon as this week. But the policy would not change until sometime after Dec. 1, when the Pentagon completes a review of its readiness to deal with the new policy. President Obama would also be required to certify that repeal would not harm military readiness.
If it passed, the measure could clear the way for gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military as early next year, ending a policy that Mr. Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, all say they oppose.
Here is the Committee Amendment that Sen Joe Lieberman is expected to introduce.
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