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Susan Collins Killing DADT Repeal With Demand for Unlimited Debate

This is just depressing:

(Susan) Collins has said she supports repeal, but won’t agree to vote for cloture on the Defense Authorization Bill containing repeal if Harry Reid doesn’t allow ample time for open debate and amendments on the bill.

In private discussions between Collins and Reid this morning, and between their staffs over the weekend, Collins has demanded that Reid allow what’s known as “unlimited debate” on the bill in order for her to vote for repeal, the aide close to the talks says.

Reid has rejected this demand, the aide continues. The problem is that this could allow any Senator to hijack the proceedings by introducing a “non-germane amendment,” thus holding the floor.

Reid does not think Collins herself intends to do this, the aide continues. Rather, he worries that another GOP Senator who strongly opposes repeal, such as Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint, could take advantage of unlimited debate in this fashion to run out the clock.

“He can’t trust Coburn or DeMint,” the aide says. “He can’t agree to that deal.”

Reid has offered 15 amendments – 10 from Republicans – in order to get the bill done. Collins rejected this. And by the way, accepting “unlimited debate” just means that the bill never gets done, period.

Reid could call Collins’ bluff by putting a cloture vote for the defense authorization bill up tonight, but she’s already voted against cloture – for precisely this reason – back in September. It’s what she has hidden behind all along. There’s the concurrent kamikaze move to destroy the entire lame-duck agenda layered on top of this.

There’s an additional question of whether Collins can be worked around, with a united Democratic caucus, plus Scott Brown and Dick Lugar (and maybe Murkowski or Ensign). But it doesn’t look good right now.

Amendment time agreements is part of Jeff Merkley’s rules reform. There should be ample amendments for each side, but this is the kind of thing that kills good legislation with majority (and even super-majority) support, and it doesn’t have much to do with the filibuster.

UPDATE: Some Democrats are concerned that failure on cloture will signal either a total shelving of the defense authorization bill, or a stripped-down bill without DADT repeal.

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David Dayen

David Dayen