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Collins, Snowe Hesitate to Support Reid’s Plan for DREAM Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster on the defense authorization bill, which some senators have threatened to block because Reid plans to attach to the DREAM Act and a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Centrist Republican senators like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine are considered crucial to this effort — but they have indicated they may be unwilling to cross the aisle during today’s vote.

During a floor speech today, Collins said she is in a tough position: She supports a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but opposes Reid’s decision to allow only two amendments to the defense authorization bill. Reid said he would limit amendments to three: a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; the DREAM Act; and an amendment to ban the practice of placing “secret holds” on presidential nominees.

“I will defend the right of my colleagues to offer amendments on this issue and other issues that are being brought up in connection with the defense authorization bill,” Collins said. “They need to have a civil, fair and open debate on the Senate floor.”

Snowe released a statement yesterday with a similar message:

It is therefore imperative that Senate deliberations on the defense bill be conducted without limitations and in a manner that allows for the consideration of all related amendments that Senators may wish to offer.

There is one crucial difference between the two senators: While Collins said she would likely support a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell amendment if the bill proceeds, Snowe said she thinks the Senate should wait until a military review of the policy has been completed.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) indicated today that Reid is willing to listen, quoting Reid’s statement on the Senate floor last week that he is “willing to work with Republicans on a process that will permit the Senate to consider these matters and complete the bill as soon as possible.”

Levin argued Republicans should approve cloture, then can vote down any amendments they oppose after the Senate has debated them.

“That ability to stop the completion of this bill is there, but first we have to get to the bill,” he said.

The vote on whether to move forward will take place at 2:30 p.m. EST.

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