Hours before the Senate was to vote on a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a proponent of repeal but also a politician, made Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid an offer: Hold off on the vote, and you’ll have my support.
“I have urged the majority leader to postpone the vote to reconsider, which he is threatening to hold tonight,” Collins announced to reporters as she stepped off the Senate floor Wednesday evening. She told Reid to take care of the Bush-era tax rate extension on Thursday before addressing the Defense Authorization bill that contained the contentious policy about gays in the military. “If he does that I will do all that I can to help him proceed to the bill. But if he does not do that, then I will not.”
“He does not seem interested at this point,” she added.
Earlier that day, Reid told reporters that he had offered Republicans a chance to debate 15 amendments to the bill, 10 for Republicans and five for Democrats, and proposed an hour of debate for each. The offer was generous, but there was no way Republicans would support opening the floor to debate with the Bush-era tax rates still hanging over their heads.
To this point, Republicans have held true to their commitment to block any proposals until they find a resolution to the debate about how to extend the Bush-era tax rates and a bill that funds the government into the next year. Reid brought the Senate to session over the weekend for a largely symbolic vote on two measures that the GOP flat out denied.
Collins suggested that if Reid chose not to take her advice to postpone, it would show that he cares more about publicly forcing the Republicans to vote down another major bill than about scrapping ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ By giving Republicans more time, she argued, the moderates in the party like Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown would be more likely to back it as well.
Assuming the entire Democratic caucus supports cloture, they need just two Republicans to join them to begin debate.
“Frankly, they won’t get to 60 votes, even if I did vote for it,” she said, referring to the pending Wednesday cloture vote. “So why not take the path that would lead to 60 votes? If you really care about the defense authorization bill, and the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ then you would accept the proposal.”
It was not long after that Reid canceled that night’s scheduled votes.
It is not yet known when he will move to vote for cloture again on the bill, but the move is a sign that he could be giving it enough time for the moderates to consider supporting it.
“We are continuing to negotiate an agreement,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley told The Daily Caller in an email Wednesday night when asked about the decision to put off the votes.
Until further notice, the ball rests squarely in Reid’s court.