Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has decided to hold off on moving forward with legislation containing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal until Thursday as negotiations continue to find enough Republican support to proceed.
Jim Manley, a Reid spokesperson, said the decision to hold off on the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill was made to allow for further discussions on the legislation.
“There’s a sense that we’re getting closer to working out an agreement,” Manley said. “Instead of having a vote tonight, we’ve temporarily postponed it until tomorrow as we try and see if we can reach an agreement.”
Reid’s office announced that the defense authorization bill wouldn’t come up for a vote on Wednesday as earlier planned after Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — seen as the Republican point person for negotiations on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — told reporters she wouldn’t vote in favor of the motion to proceed on the legislation until Congress first resolves the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.
Manley said Senate Democatic leaders are continuing to talk to Collins and others about working out an agreement to move forward with the defense authorization bill and said the vote “could happen at any time” on Thursday.
In a statement, Collins said she’s “encouraged” that Reid has decided to hold off on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” vote that he had planned for Wednesday.
“I urged him to do this so that we could consider the tax legislation first, which I believe could be on the floor as early as tomorrow and completed quickly,” Collins said. ”At that point, I believe we could move immediately to the Defense Authorization bill under a fair agreement, and I would vote to do so.”
In a statement, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said he believes the negotiations to pass “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal have been “productive and are trending positively.”
“Every day for the past week, more and more senators have announced their intention to be on the right side of history and support repeal, but the only measure of success is final passage of the defense bill with ['Don't Ask, Don't Tell'] repeal intact,” Solmonese said.
In a brief exchange on Capitol Hill, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) told the Washington Blade that he had asked Reid to hold off on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” vote to ensure there was sufficient support in moving forward.
“I’m doing everything I can to convince him not to bring it up until we the agreement on the process because without the agreement on the process, I’m not convinced we got the 60 votes,” Lieberman said. “And that would be it. That would be a tragedy.”
Many Republicans senators — including Collins — have said they want a more open amendment process on the defense authorization bill than what was proposed in September when a previous attempt was made to bring the legislation to the floor.
A Senate Democratic aide told the Blade that Reid intends to allow 10 Republican amendments and 5 Democratic amendments when the legislation comes to the floor.
Kevin Kelley, a Collins spokesperson, said the remaining issue isn’t the number of amendments, but the time alloted for debate for each of the measures.
“She has asked for fair debate on each amendment and the question has been what is fair,” Kelley said. “What I believe they’re talking about now is … basically two hours on each amendment — one hour, Republican, one hour, Democrat — and then, there would be two amendments that would each have two hours of debate.”