As the White House lobbies key senators on a potential Wednesday vote on “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, negotiations about the amendment process on the National Defense Authorization Act appear to be ongoing between Senate majority leader Harry Reid and GOP Senator Susan Collins.
"The President has been reaching out to Senators from both sides of the aisle to reiterate his desire to see Congress pass the National Defense Authorization Act, including a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell', during the lame duck," said White House spokesman Shin Inouye.
A Senate Democratic aide said Sen. Reid had offered Sen. Collins up to 15 amendments: the Republicans will get 10 amendments, the Dems will get five; all of those amendments will get one hour of debate except for two of the GOP amendments, which will get two hours each. (This is corrected from an earlier version that said the Democrats would get 10 amendments, and the GOP 5.)
Sen. Joe Lieberman said in a statement that he was continuing to work with both Sens. Reid and Collins to reach a consensus.
“I am working closely with Senator Reid and Senator Collins and other members who want to reach a fair and reasonable agreement to move the defense authorization bill,” Lieberman said. “It is now more clear than ever that we have 60 or more votes in support of repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ so it is vitally important to reach agreement on the right process to move forward.”
Wednesday morning started with a head-spinning mix of finger pointing and consternation over the process and direction of the vote.
One Senate aide told The Advocate that forcing a vote through as early as Wednesday on the National Defense Authorization Act could ultimately doom the legislation and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal provision that is attached.
“We believe that there would be sufficient Republican votes to move the bill, however, those Republicans are saying that they need consideration of the tax bill first,” said the aide. “If the defense bill comes up today it could quite likely fail.”
The aide said calling the defense authorization up for a vote now would not leave enough room in the schedule to “properly debate” the bill, which would likely take several days even if an agreement can be made to abbreviate the amendment process. “We're potentially at a moment where the repeal could be killed unless it’s given proper consideration,” said the aide.
Asked if the Senate would be willing stay later to consider the defense bill after taxes, the aide said constituents need to make their voices heard.
“The Democratic caucus needs to know this is a priority that it gets done because it will not get done next year of the following year,” said the aide.
But a spokesman for majority leader Reid rejected that assessment.
"I strongly disagree with that suggestion," said Jim Manley.
Manley said Republicans were simply "hiding behind a letter," referring to the pledge that GOP caucus members made not to consider other bills until taxes had been addressed.
"If it's not a letter, it's going to be the amendment process. If it's not the amendment process, it's something else," he said.