It appears as if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's chances to start debate on a $726 billion defense policy bill just got a little dimmer.
Moderate GOP Sen Susan Collins of Maine just said she would not lend her vote later today to shut down a GOP filibuster if Reid does not allow a full and open debate on amendments, including one she would oppose that would strike language from the bill that repeals the military's policy against homosexuals serving openly in the armed forces.
Collins, the only Republican on the Armed Services Committee to vote for repeal of the so-called "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, told CNN Tuesday that she's frustrated at her predicament.
"It's not not fair. I am a strong supporter of repealing DADT," Collins said, "It's not fair to block out amendments from people who disagree with my position. For the life of me, I don't understand why the majority leader doesn't bring this to the floor and allow free and open debate from both sides. That would be fair."
Collins' spokesman, Kevin Kelly, told Fox that the senator called Reid this morning to ask him to reconsider, otherwise, she is a 'no' vote.
Collins is slated to make a Senate floor speech in the 10 a.m. ET hour.
Reid has indicated Democrats intend to consider only a small handful of amendments, including one he will offer, if debate is allowed to start with today's vote, that offers citizenship to immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children and who have a clean record and are willing to either enroll in college or the armed forces. Republicans call this, the DREAM Act, "amnesty."
A senior aide to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-MI, said Monday that for 48 consecutive years, Congress has approved this defense bill, called the Defense Authorization bill. It is usually a popular measure containing troop pay increases, bonuses, and new weapons systems.
Meanwhile, the pressure from Lady Gaga and her followers, who held a rally in Collins' home state Monday for DADT repeal, appears not to have had an affect on the state's senior senator, Olympia Snowe, either.
In a statement released Monday night, while Snowe did not say she was a 'no' on the Tuesday afternoon procedural motion, she certainly signaled she was headed in that direction.
After complaining about the situation with amendments, Snowe indicated a substantive objection, as well.
"Given that the law implementing the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy has been in place for nearly 17 years, I agree that it is overdue for a thorough review. The question is, whether we should be voting on this issue before we have the benefit of the comprehensive review that President Obama's Secretary of Defense ordered in March, to secure the input of our men and women in uniform during this time of war," the senator pondered, adding, "We should all have the opportunity to review that report which is to be completed on December 1, as we reevaluate this policy and the implementation of any new changes."
When asked how Snowe would ultimately vote, spokesman John Genztel demurred, saying only, "I guess we'll see."
The focus now turns to other possible GOP "yes" votes, including Sen George Voinovich, R-OH, but it is also not clear if Democrats can hold all of their own in line.
Sen Ben Nelson, D-NE, a pro-life Democrat, has said he is concerned about the repeal of a long time ban on abortions at military facilities. The bill permits women service members to use their own money for the procedure.
As well, Sen Jim Webb, D-VA, the lone Democrat to vote against the DADT repeal in committee, has not taken a position yet on the Tuesday procedural motion. The senator did, however, vote for the final defense bill in committee, even with the DADT repeal riding inside.