House to vote Wednesday on new 'don't ask, don't tell' bill
Updated 5:34 p.m. ET
The House of Representatives will vote Wednesday a new bill to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" law.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the vote will occur tomorrow after House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) on Tuesday introduced the House version of a bill proposed last week by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The bill authorizes the Pentagon to end its enforcement of the 17-year ban on gays serving openly in the military.
"This discriminatory and harmful policy has weakened America's security by depriving us of the work of tens of thousands of gay and lesbian troops who have served their country honorably. And it has severely compromised our Armed Forces' core value of integrity," Hoyer said in a statement.
Lieberman and Collins introduced the bill last week after the Senate failed to proceed to debate on the National Defense Authorization Act for the second time this year. The massive policy bill included language ending "don't ask, don't tell." it was passed by the House in May.
The new bill uses the exact language that was in the defense measure.
Murphy, an Iraq war veteran who lost reelection in November, helped broker the deal between the White House and Congressional Democrats to include language ending the ban in the defense bill.
Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, criticized Congressional Democrats for pushing to pass a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" but failing to pass the annual defense bill, which has been approved every year for more than four decades. He urged lawmakers to consider the concerns of military service chiefs before rushing to end the ban.
"The defense authorization bill could -- and should -- have been passed months ago, but Democratic leaders have held it up because of controversial social provisions. The American people and our troops demand better," McKeon said in a statement.
McKeon wanted the House Armed Services Committee to hold hearings with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and other top military leaders, as the Senate did two weeks ago. But scheduling conflicts got in the way, according to Democratic aides.
Gay rights advocates and Democratic Congressional aides not authorized to speak publicly on the issue believe that having the House vote first on the new bill will force the Senate to consider it as a privileged resolution before the lame-duck session concludes.
Though Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) supports the new proposal, he has not said when senators might vote on it, if at all. The Senate is expected to vote on a new tax-cut package and perhaps consider a government spending bill and the New START Treaty before revisiting the issue of gays in the military.
Lieberman said Tuesday that he is "very encouraged" by the new House bill, saying it "creates some real momentum" for repeal in the Senate.
"To me, particularly if and when, I believe, the House passes a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' it would be wrong of us to go home before taking it up and passing it," Lieberman said. "And I think we can do it pretty quickly."
Lieberman stopped short of saying whether he believes there's enough time to tackle the bill in the Senate. But he said he is optimistic that the repeal effort stands a chance.
"I am increasingly confident that we have more than 60 senators ready to vote to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,' so we can do it this year, and time is of the essence," Lieberman said.
Staff writer Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.
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| December 14, 2010; 5:34 PM ET
Categories: Congress, Military
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