[Edited throughout with final changes at 6:45 p.m.]
On a 250-175 vote (Roll Call No. 638), and with 15 Republicans supporting the measure, the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Dec. 15 — in a chamber temporarily presided over by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) — passed a stand-alone bill sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.) that is aimed at the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The bill now moves on to the Senate, where the House procedure employed today will stop an initial filibuster from preventing debate — as happened this past week in the Senate — but its end fate remains unclear. The Washington Post‘s Ed O’Keefe reports today that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)’s office “says the Senate will vote on DADT next week.” As one advocate for repeal said, however, “the moment of truth on openly gay service comes down to the Senate.”
In a sign of the Defense Department’s increased engagement with the legislative process on the issue, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell issued a statement shortly after the vote, saying, “Secretary Gates is pleased that the House of Representatives has voted to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law. He encourages the Senate to pass the legislation this session, enabling the Department of Defense to carefully and responsibly manage a change in this policy instead of risking an abrupt change resulting from a decision in the courts.”
With the same number of Democrats opposed to the measure as there were Republicans supporting it, the House bill nonetheless passed with more Republicans supporting the measure and fewer Democrats opposing the measure than did so in May. The bill also had one more affirmative vote than when the House passed a stand-alone version of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. In that vote, 249 members voted yes, 18 of whom were Republicans.
In a joint statement issued by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Human Rights Campaign, Log Cabin Republicans, Stonewall Democrats, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Servicemembers United, and Third Way, the organizations aimed at repeal said that “[t]oday’s vote by the House of Representatives provides another resounding indication that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can and should be repealed legislatively this year.
They continued, “With this second vote in favor of repeal, the House joins our top military leaders, a super-majority of Americans, the President, and a 60-vote majority in the Senate in agreeing that it is time to give the Pentagon the power to carry out its carefully crafted plans for ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. With the Pentagon Working Group report in hand and the Secretary of Defense pleading for Congressional action, there is no more time for excuses—the Senate must follow the lead of the House and pass the bipartisan repeal legislation championed by Senators Lieberman and Collins before the end of the 111th Congress.”
In addition to Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Anh ‘Joseph’ Cao (R-La.), Charles Djou (R-Hawaii), Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) — who voted for the repeal amendment in May — ten additional Republicans supported repeal today. They were Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), John Campbell (R-Calif.), Mike Castle (R-Del.) Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), David Dreier (R-Calif.), Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Todd Platts (R-Pa.) and Dave Reichart (R-Wash.).
HRC president Joe Solmonese added, in his own statement, “Today the U.S. House of Representatives said, for the second time, what military leaders, the majority of our troops and 80 percent of the American public have been saying all along – the only thing that matters on the battlefield is the ability to do the job. Momentum is solidly on the side of ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Now it is up to the Senate to consign this failed and discriminatory law to the dustbin of history.”
The Palm Center’s deputy executive director, Christopher Neff, meanwhile, said the House vote “means that the moment of truth on openly gay service comes down to the Senate.
“The upcoming votes on stand-alone repeal legislation are votes about whether to support prejudice or to oppose it,” he continued. “The evidence is conclusive: there is no military or legal rationale for ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.'”
Stonewall Democrats executive director Michael Mitchell said in a statement, “The Democratic-led House did their part again for DADT repeal. Now it’s back to the Senate, where a recalcitrant band of GOP obstructionists threaten to strangle the will of the people and the military regarding repeal. We call on the Senate to show the same courage and conviction that the House just did – personified by Rep. Patrick Murphy – and finally discharge DADT to the trash heap of history before this Congress ends.”
The questions remain whether the Senate — led by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — will do so, what opposition will be put up by opponents and how hard the White House will push on the Senate to do so before ending the session.
As SLDN’s executive director, Aubrey Sarvis, said in a statement, “We cannot underestimate Senators John McCain and Mitch McConnell, who will do everything they can to kill repeal.
“We need to fight back on any amendments as a change to the language will cause further delay. Repeal supporters must tell their Senators to vote with Majority Leader Reid and Chairman [Carl] Levin [(D-Mich.)] on the floor.”