For the second time this year, the US House of Representatives, on December 15, voted to overturn the military’s 17-year-old Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.
According to the official House tally, the vote was 250-175, with 15 Republicans supporting repeal and an equal number of Democrats voting no.
That victory margin was wider than the May vote in which the House approved repeal language as part of the broader annual Pentagon appropriations bill.
The Senate twice — in September and last week — failed to move forward on debating the funding bill when the Democratic leadership was unable to muster the 60 votes necessary to surmount procedural hurdles put up by the Republicans.
On both occasions, the GOP complained about the rules Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada put forward for debating the appropriations bill, including the number and manner of amendments allowed to be offered on the floor.
A substantial number of Republicans — though the exact number is not known —were also motivated by their intransigence on the issue of repeal. Arizona Senator John McCain, who is the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, has led the effort to derail any movement this year on ending the policy.
Immediately after last week’s Senate vote, Connecticut’s Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman and Maine Republican Susan Collins, the only GOP senator who voted to move forward on debating the Defense Department funding measure, vowed to introduce a stand-alone bill to achieve repeal.
Advocates for repeal acknowledge that action is needed during the lame duck session since under Republican leadership next year, the House would not support repeal.
On December 13, the bill Lieberman and Collins promised was introduced with 40 co-sponsors. Supporters will once again face the task of finding 60 votes to overcome procedural objections, and Collins was the only Republican among that group of 40.
As news of the House vote surfaced, Lieberman’s office tweeted that Collins’ Maine colleague Olympia Snowe, also a Republican, announced her support for repeal. However, other Republicans who have endorsed repeal in the ten days since the Armed Services Committee heard testimony about a new Pentagon report recommending that the policy be ended — such as Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted against moving forward on the defense spending debate last week, effectively blocking repeal.
Meanwhile, repeal advocates are pushing back hard against Marine Commandant General James Amos, whom Stars and Stripes on December 14 quoting as saying, in explaining his opposition to repeal, “Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines lives. That’s the currency of this fight… I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center, in Maryland] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.”
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said, “General Amos needs to fall in line and salute or resign now… If he cannot do that, the president should ask for his resignation.”