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December 17, 2010

Second DADT repeal passes House, heads to Senate

Washington, D.C.--The effort to repeal the military ban on openly gay personnel seemed doomed on December 9 when a Senate cloture vote failed, but a new bill could do the job more quickly.

The so-called standalone bill was introduced in the Senate on December 8, a day after the cloture vote failed to garner the 60 senators necessary to stop debate on the defense authorization bill that included the first attempt to repeal. The standalone was put forward by independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins.

The House passed the standalone DADT repeal on December 15 by a vote of 250 to 175. The bill is the same as the repeal measure in the defense authorization that failed to gain cloture in the Senate last week. It removes DADT from federal law after the president, secretary of defense and Joint Chiefs chair certify that this will not harm the military. All three support repeal.

“Repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ should not just be a promise unkept--we must take bold action to get it done,” said Lieberman and Collins when the House bill was introduced the day before. “This step by our colleagues in the House shows the broad and very real commitment to repealing the unjust law before the end of the year.”

House passage sends the measure to the Senate with “privileged” status, so no cloture vote is necessary.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will use the privilege of his post to allow the bill to bypass committee.

However, ahead of it in overall government priorities were extending the Bush administration tax cuts, ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and an omnibus spending bill to keep the government running.

As of Wednesday morning, December 15, START and the spending bill were set to be voted on as early as that afternoon, but Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Caroline Republican, was expected to use senatorial privilege to demand verbal readings of the two measures, which could take up to 72 hours.

Floor readings are generally waived by unanimous consent, but any individual senator can require a floor reading of any bill. It’s an obstructionist tactic that was used to pull an amendment from the health reform bill last year, when Sen. Tom Coburn required a floor reading of the amendment, which was later withdrawn.

The floor readings will likely come after the vote on the tax-cut bill, which was a major Republican priority. The party threatened to obstruct movement on all bills unless the tax cuts were extended.

In addition to Collins, other Republicans have indicated that they will support repeal this time, including Richard Lugar of Indiana, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Ohio Sen. George Voinovich was considered by gay civil rights groups to be on the fence over repeal.

Former Sen. Sam Nunn, who in 1993 led the charge against dropping a ban on gay service members, has since changed his position as well.

“Society has changed, and the military has changed,” he told the Associated Press. He pointed to the change in position of military leaders since the policy was passed in the Clinton Administration.

The closest to flat-out opposition to repeal from the top brass came from Marine Commandant James Amos, who has expressed reluctance to repeal the policy when his service is “singularly tightly focused on what they’re doing in a very deadly environment.”

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