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Bill that would repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is sent to Senate

By Jim Abrams
Associated Press / May 29, 2010

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WASHINGTON — The drive to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military survived another House vote yesterday and moves to the Senate, where advocates on both sides of the “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ debate are gearing up for a fight.

The House voted, 229 to 186, to pass a defense bill approving more than $700 billion for military programs and containing an amendment overturning the 1993 law allowing gays to serve in the military only if they hide their sexual orientation.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill this summer, and its enactment is no sure thing. The White House has issued a veto threat because the House version includes $485 million for an alternative engine for the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The second engine would be built by General Electric Co. and Rolls-Royce in Lynn, Mass., and other sites. The main F-35 engine is built in Connecticut by Pratt & Whitney.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has sought to eliminate the second program, saying it is wasteful. Supporters, including members of the Massachusetts delegation, say that the competition will save money over the life cycle of the $100 billion project. Building the engine would bring hundreds of jobs to the Lynn plant, GE executives contend.

Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he hoped to get the defense bill to the floor before Congress leaves for summer recess at the end of July. His committee on Thursday approved an amendment repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ on a 16-to-12 vote.

Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts voted against the amendment, saying action on any repeal should not occur until the Pentagon has finished its study in December on how to implement a new policy.

Brown said yesterday he would not join a filibuster to prevent the full Senate from voting on the amendment. “No, no, no,’’ he said when asked whether he would attempt to stop the measure from coming to a vote. “Filibusters never — it’s not my style. I want to make sure that we have a full and fair debate on it.’’

Several staunch opponents have said they would attempt every possible way to block it. But Brown’s stance makes it less likely that they could garner enough votes to stifle it.

Globe reporter Matt Viser contributed to this report.

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