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The vote Wednesday came after Democratic leaders fast-tracked their bill, bypassing the normal committee process, onto the House floor, where lawmakers from both parties returned to familiar arguments.

Democrats said the 17-year-old policy is outdated, unjust, and does not harm the armed services or undermine morale. They noted Defense Secretary Roberts M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen support repeal and have urged Congress to act before a court strikes down the policy, leaving the armed services unprepared for the change.

Mrs.Pelosi cast the vote as an opportunity “to close the door on a fundamental unfairness in our nation” that has resulted in 13,000 people being discharged from the military.