Collins positioned to kill DADT repeal

COLLINS POSITIONED TO KILL DADT REPEAL…. We talked earlier Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) surprise move this morning: he’s getting started tonight on the defense authorization act, which includes a provision on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I talked to a senior Senate aide who’s helped flesh out where things stand in more detail.

At this point, Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, who claims to support repeal, appears to be the senator who stands in the way of success. On Friday, Collins had a lengthy meeting with Reid and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), trying to resolve her concerns and clear the way for passage. They didn’t reach an agreement.

This was soon followed by President Obama reaching out to Collins directly over the weekend, urging her to do the right thing. They didn’t reach an agreement, either. This led to additional talks between Reid and Collins this morning.

In a nutshell, Collins is asking Democratic leaders for unlimited debate on the defense bill. Reid, in turn, is offering Collins a compromise: votes on 10 separate amendments*, seven of which would come from Republicans, three of which would come from Democrats.

Collins has responded that this isn’t good enough, and she’ll refuse to let the Senate vote up or down on the legislation.

It’s worth emphasizing that Collins just isn’t being reasonable. Looking back over the last couple of decades, a total of 10 amendments is entirely routine for this defense authorization bill, and is actually far more than the number of amendments considered most of the time.

Why not just give in and tell Collins she can have unlimited debate? Because Republicans really are desperate to kill the legislation, and the most far-right members will keep offering unrelated amendments indefinitely, running out the clock on the lame-duck session, and derailing the bill.

The aide told me, Collins is “basically asking for a unicorn for Christmas. We can’t give her a unicorn.”

So, is that it? Will Collins screw over gay servicemembers and blow off Pentagon requests over baseless procedural demands? That appears pretty likely.

There’s also the matter of the “hostage strategy” — Collins is part of a united GOP caucus that has vowed to kill literally every piece of legislation until Republicans are satisfied with the result of the tax debate. As of now, that includes DADT repeal.

But it’s not quite over. Reid, my source told me, is “still trying,” and Lieberman, who’s been “tireless” on this issue, continues to urge Collins to do the right thing.

One wonders how many voters in Maine who care about this issue might be willing to pick up the phone between now and tonight.

* Update: Still hoping to persuade Collins, Dems are now offering 15 amendments, 10 of which could come from Republicans.