House approves repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

After stumbling last week, the effort to end the policy banning gay troops from serving openly in the military received a boost Wednesday, as the House approved a measure repealing the policy in an effort to force the Senate to do the same before lawmakers go home for the holidays.

The House vote on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy -- essentially a repeat of a similar vote in May -- puts fresh pressure on the Senate leaders to prioritize the repeal as they struggle to schedule votes on a handful of last-chance priorities for Democrats.

The final tally was 250 to 175, mostly along party lines.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised to bring the House bill to the Senate floor, and said this week that if the House completed its work, “we’ll have to work on that.” Reid has suggested he may keep lawmakers in session through the weekend and beyond.


Still, a repeal of the 17-year-old policy faces the dual constraints of time and Republican opposition. Senate Republicans have resisted action on any measures other than a compromise tax plan and a resolution to fund the government. As the effort moves to the Senate, the bill may face hostile amendments, delays and a group of lawmakers eager to put an end to the 111th Congress.

Like other top Democratic priorities, the repeal is not likely to get much traction next year, when Republicans take control of the House and increase their numbers in the Senate.

A GOP filibuster has blocked passage of the repeal, until now attached as an amendment to a massive defense bill.

The House vote Wednesday, on a stand-alone measure, marked a revival of the effort to pass the repeal. Advocates believe that they have the necessary 60 votes to overcome another GOP filibuster, particularly now that a Senate vote would be scheduled after the tax plan was approved. Republican senators had vowed to block all measures until passage of President Obama’s tax-cut compromise measure. The Senate voted on the tax-cut deal Wednesday; the House is expected to take it up Thursday.

The stand-alone don’t ask, don’t tell repeal bill was introduced by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, (D-Md.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), an Iraq war veteran now in his final days of his service in the House. Murphy lost his reelection bid in November.