On Dec. 15, the House of Representatives voted 250 to 175 in favor of a standalone bill to repeal the military’s 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The bill was sponsored by Reps. Patrick J. Murphy (D-PA) and Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). Murphy, an Iraq War veteran and a vocal opponent of DADT, lost his seat in the 2010 midterm elections, heightening the urgency in bringing repeal to a vote before Congress’ lame-duck sessions expires at the end of the year.
Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) had urged Hoyer and Murphy to introduce the standalone measure after identical legislation, as part of the larger National Defense Authorization Act, had failed to advance in the Senate just six days prior. On Dec. 9, 57 senators, three short of the needed number, had voted to bring the bill to the floor, leveling what repeal supporters believed was a severe blow to their chances. Collins was the only Republican to vote for it.
“It is never too late to do the right thing,” Hoyer said.
The House confirmed “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,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
The legislation will now move to the Senate as a “privileged” bill, meaning that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) can call for an immediate vote on it. Ironically, Reid had lobbied for months to secure the needed 60 votes to pass DADT repeal as part of the National Defense Authroization Act–but knowing he was likely short of that number, Reid abruptly changed his strategy and called for the procedural vote on Dec. 9 that failed to move the bill forward. Collins, according to The New York Times, was “blindsided” by Reid’s move and scrambled to secure the standalone option.
LGBT rights groups were cautiously upbeat about repeal passage before the end of the year.
“This vote helps build momentum as we push the Senate to take immediate action before the lame-duck session ends. We are grateful for the extraordinary leadership of House Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer and Rep. Murphy,” said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, in a statement. “Advocates need to keep the pressure on the Senate. We’ll still need 60 votes to complete the bill and send it directly to the President’s desk. We cannot underestimate [Republican] Senators John McCain and Mitch McConnell, who will do everything they can to kill repeal.”
Repeal advocates are lobbying a handful of moderate Republican Senators, including Collins, Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) to secure the 60 votes needed to pass the bill and send it to President Obama’s desk. Obama made DADT repeal a campaign promise in 2008.