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Collins Likely to Vote Against Advancing Defense Bill

Sen. Susan Collins indicated Tuesday she will oppose a procedural motion to move forward on the defense authorization bill, a blow to Democrats who considered the moderate Republican’s vote crucial in their efforts.

“I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down the debate and preclude the involvement of Republicans,” the Maine Senator said on the floor.

In a lengthy statement, Collins noted she was “on the horns of a dilemma” because she supports the defense authorization bill and most notably an amendment included that would repeal the military’s controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But echoing the criticism of her Republican colleagues, Collins complained that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was stifling debate on the measure.

“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 in her statement. “They deserve to have a civil, fair and open debate on the Senate floor, and that is why I am so disappointed that rather than allowing full and open debate and the opportunity for amendments from both sides of the aisle, the Majority Leader apparently intends to shut down the debate and exclude Republicans from offering a number of amendments.”

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) has led the GOP opposition against moving to the bill, complaining that Democrats have loaded it up with political amendments on immigration, abortion and Senate procedure.

Collins was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the DADT amendment during an Armed Services Committee markup in May. Both she and fellow Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) were considered crucial votes to advance the bill on the floor, but on Monday Snowe issued her own critique of the Democrats’ handling of the measure.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) acknowledged Monday he was unsure whether Democrats had the 60 votes need to break a GOP filibuster, and without the help of Snowe or Collins, they likely won’t hit that mark during Tuesday afternoon’s cloture vote to proceed to the measure.

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