House passes defense authorization bill

The House on Friday passed the 2011 defense authorization bill containing a compromise to repeal the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law that bans openly gay people from serving in the military.

The House bill also contains a strong veto bait: $485 million for a second F-35 Joint Strike Fighter engine made by General Electric and Rolls Royce that the Pentagon does not want. The administration has threatened to veto the final legislation if it comes out of conference with the funding for the second engine. The Senate version did not contain the funding. 

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The House passed the mammoth defense measure authorizing $726 billion in national security spending by a vote of 229-186, with 160 Republicans voting against the bill mainly because it included the "Don't ask, don't tell" provision. Twenty six Democrats also voted against the bill.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who opposes the repeal of the Clinton-era law that he was instrumental in writing, voted in favor of the bill he managed on the House floor. The conservative Democrat finds himself in a tougher reelection race than usual this cycle. He voted against the amendment that attached the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal to the defense authorization bill.

The chief congressional proponents of repeal reached an agreement with the Obama administration to repeal the policy after the Pentagon finishes its review of repeal implementation and President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen certify that it can be achieved consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.