Earlier this evening, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — the moderate Republican whose vote to proceed to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was supposed to create a domino effect that would have brought along the support of Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AR) and Scott Brown (D-MA) and given Democrats the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster — told reporters that she would not vote for cloture until Congress reached an agreement for extending the Bush tax cuts. Consequently, Reid has postponed the vote to later in the week.
And while the tax negotiations remain at a standstill, earlier today, advocates of DADT repeal seemed hopeful that a compromise could still be brokered with Collins. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) — a sponsor of repeal — and Reid, both disputed morning reports that Collins was unrealistically expecting an open amendment process and stressed that she was acting in good faith and seemed interested in reaching a “fair” time agreement with Democrats. “There was some stuff in the paper today that mean it — that said she couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted to do. That’s really not true,” Reid explained to reporters this afternoon. “She had made up her mind what she wanted to do. I just thought it was too much time,” he said.
Indeed, the Washington Posts’ Jonathan Capehart published a column just minutes before Collins pulled out of the deal, suggesting that Reid and Collins were just a couple of hours apart. While she had agreed to Reid’s “offer of 15 amendments — 10 for Republicans and 5 for Democrats,” she wanted “two hours of debate (one hour for Democrats and one hour for Republicans) for each amendment.” Publicly, Reid had only offered one hour of debate for each amendment, with additional time for some amendments.
It’s unclear what happened between now and then, but Reid’s team is disputing Capehart’s characterization, saying “If a little more time on each amendment was all she’s asking, Senator Reid would have shaken her hand and called it a deal by now.” And Collins told reporters that she needed more debate time and the ability for Republicans “pick our own amendments as opposed to the Majority Leader.” She also reverted back to the GOP argument that the tax extensions would have to come first. “Everyone on the Republican side wants to see the tax package completed first,” she said. “So 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.”
Whether or not Reid and Collins can agree on what constitutes “fair” and move to the defense bill will also now depend on the progress of the tax compromise, which seems to have stalled. But what’s certain is that postponing the vote will buy lawmakers more time to try and reach an agreement and possibly rope in those Republicans who would consider voting to proceed but remain committed to first tackling taxes.