House passes Defense policy bill

The House Friday approved its version of the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill, 229-186, including language to repeal the 1993 policy that bans gays from openly serving in the military. Nine Republicans joined Democrats to pass the measure, while 26 Democrats voted against it.

The bill was passed after Democrats beat back a Republican procedural motion to amend the bill to freeze civilian employee pay in the military. The effort was defeated when it was ruled not germane, and members voted to table an appeal of that ruling by the chair.

The bill would authorize $567 billion for Defense Department and Energy Department national security programs for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

About $2.9 billion in the bill is for an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That funding has drawn a veto threat from the White House, which is backed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The language to lift the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was worked out by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House this week. That compromise prompted some angst from Democrats, who fear potential political damage from casting such a controversial vote as they head into the fall elections.

The amendment's wording was designed to give political cover by delaying repeal until the Pentagon finishes its reviews of the issue and certifies a policy change will not harm military readiness or unit cohesion.

The Senate Armed Services Committee Friday announced it reported out its version of the defense authorization bill, which includes "don't ask, don't tell" repeal language, but not the funding authorization for the alternate F-35 engine.

That bill is expected to go before the full Senate after the Memorial Day recess.

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