House bill to end 'Don't ask, don't tell' may have as many as 211 votes

A bill to repeal the ban on gays from openly serving in the military already has 187 co-sponsors in the House, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), its chief architect, said Wednesday.

Additionally, "about two dozen other folks in the Congress... said they're going to vote for it if it comes up for a vote," Murphy told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow during an interview last night.

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Combined, that means Murphy's effort could now have as many as 211 votes in support in the House -- just a few shy of the 218 votes the bill would need to clear the lower chamber.

"And we're working every day to get even more," Murphy added, noting he has tried to lobby House lawmakers personally to support his bill. "And we will have the votes when it comes up for a vote this year"

Momentum seems to have shifted in the national debate over "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), following President Barack Obama's pledge in his State of the Union address this month to work on a repeal this year.

Lawmakers have started holding hearings on the nearly 16-year ban, the Pentagon announced Tuesday it would launch a sweeping review of the policy and a number of key military officials -- from former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell to current Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen -- have recently signaled their support for ending the 1993 law.

Murphy's bill, in particular, has long been popular among Democrats in the House. But a lack of in kind support in the Senate might force Democrats to pass their repeal as part of their defense appropriations bill -- a must-pass piece of legislation that lawmakers frequently use as a vehicle to approve other reforms.

"We need to make sure that we get this done this year," Murphy said. "We act with a sense of urgency. There are so many heroes that are serving right now in our Armed Services that are one day or one month away from being turned in because they happen to be gay."