House Passes Standalone Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Bill

Update: The House passed the standalone bill around 5:23 by a vote of 250-175. The bill now moves to the Senate for final consideration. The sponsor of the standalone Senate bill, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Tweeted shortly before the vote that Sen. Olympia Snowe had agreed to support the standalone bill.

This afternoon’s vote on repealing the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers is not the first for the House this year. But it may be the most important.

Representatives are voting now on free standing legislation that will end the so-called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Should the bill pass, it will be a key step toward getting the policy repealed this year — and it will once and for all put the action on ending DADT through legislation in the Senate.

The standalone bill was brought to the floor because the Senate wouldn’t act on the last DADT repeal the House passed. The first bill came in the form of a section in the annual National Defense Authorization Act. Repeal was tucked away inside the NDAA to, among other things, give wary politicians cover for repealing DADT in the guise of voting to fund our national defense.

But that plan died when the Senate achieve a cloture vote on its version of the NDAA, making passage of a ban that way before time runs out on the lame duck session nearly impossible. Enter the standalone bill, which addresses just DADT repeal and, proponents say, can be passed more quickly.That process will be sped along by House passage of the bill today. Once the House is done with it, an affirmative vote in the Senate would send it straight to President Obama for a virtually assured signature.

Today, the White House urged members of the House to pass the standalone bill, saying the measure “is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

What the Senate will do with DADT once the House is done with it remains a very open question. Though advocates of the Senate’s standalone bill, led by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), say they have the votes to get it passed, no one has said whether or where the bill will find room in the ever-shrinking legislative calendar.