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"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal Moving Quickly in Congress

May 27, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

During their markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 this afternoon, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment from Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT] to repeal the Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and allow gay men and women to serve openly in the military. The Senate Armed Services Committee, which is much more conservative than the Congress as a whole, is where advocates of the repeal feared their efforts would get hung up, so, for them, this is a huge victory. TPM reports:

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.

But key Republicans adamantly oppose the move, and are willing to take extraordinary measures to prevent the repeal from going through.

“I’ll do everything in my power [to stop the repeal],” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who serves as ranking member on the Armed Services Committee yesterday.

The House is expected to take up and pass a similar amendment from Rep. Patrick Murphy [D, PA-8] when they take up their own version of the FY2011 Defense Authorization bill (H.R.5136) this evening. Assuming the Senate can overcome a Republican filibuster on the floor, once the repeal language becomes law, there are still a few more hoops to be jumped through before gay people can enlist and those currently serving can be open about their sexuality.

  • The Pentagon must deliver a report on their strategy for implementing the repeal to the Secretary of Defense no later than December 1, 2010.
  • President Obama, the Defense Secretary and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff review the report and send Congress notification that they have read the report and determined that the Department of Defense is prepared to implement the repeal in a manner that is “consistent with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention.”
  • 60 days after the notice is sent to Congress, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will be repealed without requiring any further congressional action.

UPDATE: The House passed the Murphy amendment, which mirrors the Lieberman amendment, on Thursday night by a vote of 234-194. Twenty-six Democrats crossed the aisle to vote against the amendment and five Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of it.

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