Video: 'Don't ask, don't tell' closer to repeal

  1. Transcript of: 'Don't ask, don't tell' closer to repeal

    MADDOW: now is a live vote count in the House of Representatives . The House , the full House is voting on an amendment that would repeal the Don `t Ask Don `t Tell policy which bars gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the United States Armed Forces . Right now the number you`re looking at here, see where it says totals there, democratic, republican, independent, and then totals? You`re looking under the yeas and nays columns there under totals. Well, right now at 210 yes`s, 180 no`s. If that yea`s column goes from 210 to 217 or higher, now it`s at 211, then the Don `t Ask Don `t Tell repeal amendment will have passed the House of Representatives . Earlier today it passed the Senate Armed Services Committee . It is similar language that is passing, looks to be on its way to passing the House right now. If it happens again it will be to vote for legislative repeal of Don `t Ask Don `t Tell. But the repeal , itself, will be contingent on Pentagon review. The Pentagon is in the midst right now of reviewing the Don `t Ask Don `t Tell policies repeal . That review -- the review of how to repeal it is due on December 1st . The way this language is written, the way the language is written they -- what will happen is that the report will have to be completed. The Pentagon will have to review it. The president will have to review it, and then the president and the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will have to certify that it is consistent with military readiness to repeal Don `t Ask Don `t Tell. They have now done it. They have now gone over the top. They needed 217. They now stand at 219 votes in the House of Representatives , 220 to repeal Don `t Ask Don `t Tell. Again, this is an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill . The Defense Authorization Bill essentially sets aside money for the Pentagon . It`s all sorts of Pentagon spending, it`s a multi, multi, multimillion dollar bill . It`s the sort of thing that almost always passes. Republicans, not all of them, but republican leadership are so opposed to the prospect of Don `t Ask Don `t Tell being repealed that members of the Senate like Roger Wicker from Mississippi and John McCain of Arizona have said that they will not only filibuster the Defense Authorization Bill in order to prevent this Don `t Ask Don `t Tell repeal amendment from becoming law, they will not only filibuster the Defense Authorization , Pentagon spending, they will not only -- they`d rather not have a military than have a military that allows gay people in it. They will not only filibuster. They are planning to do everything in their power as Senators to stop this from becoming law. Obviously the political calculus here is that democrats wanted to get this done in Congress before the November elections. It is a historical axiom that in the first mid-term election after a president is elected, the opposing party gains seats in the first mid-term election . Every one except for two since the Civil War that has happened in the first mid-term election after the election of a new president. And so republicans are expecting to gain seats both in the House and the Senate . Democrats wanted to get this done before that happens but again, repeal , itself, contingent on that Pentagon study about how to repeal the bill and certification from the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that repealing this 17-year-old policy will not be contrary to the standards of military readiness that the United States intends to maintain. Again, right now the vote 229, well more than -- well over the 217 vote threshold the House need to pass this repeal of Don `t Ask Don `t Tell amendment. This is not over but this is a huge, huge step.

updated 5/27/2010 11:33:34 PM ET 2010-05-28T03:33:34

The House of Representatives on Thursday delivered a victory to President Barack Obama and gay rights groups by approving a proposal to repeal the law that allows gays to serve in the military only if they don't disclose their sexual orientation.

The 234-194 vote to overturn the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy reflected a view among many in Congress that America was ready for a military in which gays and straights can stand side by side in the trenches.

"I know that our military draws its strength on the integrity of our unified force, and current law challenges this integrity by creating two realities within the ranks," Democratic Rep. Susan Davis.

In a statement after the House vote, Obama hailed the day's congressional action as "important bipartisan steps toward repeal."

"This legislation will help make our armed forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity," Obama said.

Republicans, who voted overwhelmingly against it, cited statements by some military leaders that they need more time to study how a change in the law could affect the lives and readiness of service members.

Senate panel on same path
The House vote came just hours after the Senate Armed Services Committee took the same course and voted 16-12 in favor of repealing the 1993 law. In both cases the measure was offered as an amendment to a defense spending bill.

Obama and leading Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had actively supported the repeal so that gays could serve in the military without fear of being exposed and discharged.

"This is the beginning of the end of a shameful ban on open service by lesbian and gay troops that has weakened our national security," Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights organization, said after the Senate panel's vote.

During an all-day House debate on the bill approving more than $700 billion in spending for defense programs, Republicans repeated statements by military service chiefs that Congress should not act before the Pentagon completes a study on the impact of a repeal.

Congress going first "is the equivalent to turning to our men and women in uniform and their families and saying, 'Your opinion, your view, do not count,'" said Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

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Democratic supporters stressed that the amendment was written so that the repeal would not go into effect until after the Pentagon publishes in December the results of a survey on how service members and their families view the change, and until the president, the defense secretary and the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the repeal will not affect the military's ability to fight.

The chief sponsor of the amendment, Rep. Patrick Murphy, who served in the Iraq War, said that when he was in Baghdad "my teams did not care whether a fellow soldier was straight or gay if they could fire their assault rifle or run a convoy down ambush alley and do their job so everyone would come home safely."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that of the 13,500 members of the military who have been discharged under "don't ask, don't tell," more than 1,000 filled critical occupations, such as engineers and interpreters.

He compared the arguments of the opposition to 1948 speeches in Congress when lawmakers warned that integrating the troops would undermine morale in the military.

Senate filibuster likely
The drive to repeal the ban still faces a tough road ahead in the full Senate, where Republicans are likely to filibuster it.

"I think it's really going to be very harmful to the morale and effectiveness of our military," said Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee and a leading opponent of the repeal.

The Senate probably will take up the bill next month.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he supports repeal but would prefer that Congress wait for the December report.

Under "don't ask, don't tell," military leaders don't investigate a service member's sexual orientation as long as the person does not disclose that he or she is gay or has a same-sex relationship, which are grounds for dismissal.

Also on Thursday the House rejected an amendment to the defense bill that would have cut $485 million from the bill designated for a second engine for the new F-35 fighter jet.

Gates strongly opposes the extra engine as wasteful and unneeded, and the White House issued a statement Thursday saying the president would be advised to veto the final bill if it includes funds for the engine. But supporters of the engine made by General Electric and Rolls-Royce PLC contended that the competition between engine makers would save money in the 30 to 40-year life cycle of the $100 billion project.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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