Here’s what Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that she needs to support a full Senate debate on the defense authorization bill (the vehicle for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal): 15 guaranteed votes on amendments (10 for Republicans, and 5 for Democrats), and somewhere around four days to debate the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid already promised her the 15 amendments, but his initial offer was for a day or two of debate. Here’s her response to reporters tonight, after a Senate vote.
“The majority leader’s allotment of time for to debate those amendments was extremely short, so I have suggested doubling the amount of time, assuring that there would be votes, and making sure that the Republicans get to pick our own amendments as opposed to the Majority Leader.”
“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,” she added.
Late this evening, per Collins’ request, Reid delayed a test vote he’d planned to hold tonight.
“Everyone on the Republican side wants to see the tax package completed first,” Collins said.
Collins reminded Reid that Republicans don’t want to debate anything until the tax issue is resolved. “I have urged the majority leader to postpone the vote…so that we could get the tax bill considered first — which I believe could be on the floor tomorrow — and completed by Saturday, and then move immediately to the DOD bill, but under a fair agreement.”
Though Reid has backpedaled somewhat, he still plans to hold a vote later this week. Collins warns that any test vote before the tax cut issue is resolved will fail, even if he agrees to her terms.
“If we’re in the same situation that we are now, I don’t see how I could vote for it. But I’m obviously going to think further. But frankly they won’t get to 60 votes even if I did vote for it. So why not take the path that would lead to 60 votes”
Reid could meet her terms fairly easily, particularly if the Senate makes quick work of the tax compromise, which could be done this weekend. If that happens, the Senate could spend next week hashing out the defense bill and the funding of the government and be out by Christmas. Things, in other words, look much more promising for DADT repealers now than they did even earlier this week.
Keep in mind that this would cement her support for debating the bill. Presumably she’ll withhold endorsing the actual legislation until after that debate is over.
[Ed note: This post has been updated.]
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.