Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
With time running out on the lame-duck session of Congress, the Senate Wednesday postponed a vote on the controversial immigration bill known as the DREAM Act and didn't take up the Defense Authorization bill, which includes an amendment aimed at repealing "Don't ask, Don't tell,"
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also announced postponement of plans to consider a measure to provide health care compensation to 9/11 first responders. The DREAM Act and 9-11 measure will be taken up Thursday.
"We sometimes run into roadblocks in the Senate," Reid said, as he explained that a scheduling conflict with the House delayed the DREAM act vote. The House passed the DREAM Act late Wednesday by a vote of 216 to 198.
The Defense Authorization bill was delayed for another reason -- a request from Sen, Susan Collins to hold off on a final vote on the Defense bill until the Senate has voted on the tax cut compromise. Reid negotiated throughout the day with Collins, since her support is considered crucial to passing the bill. "I reminded the majority leader, as has Sen. Lieberman, that everyone on the Republican side wants to see the tax package completed first," Collins said Wednesday night,
Although Collins approved the measure in the Senate Armed Services Committee, she has joined her fellow Republicans on insisting that the bill be open to a wide range of GOP amendments when it is debated, in addition to asking that the tax bill be completed first. On Wednesday, a Reid aide circulated a blistering attack on Collins in an email to the media.
"Senator Collins has been inflexible and is trying to run out the clock and kill our chances of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell," the aide wrote. "Her position is disingenuous. She needs to come to us with reasonable proposal."
But by mid-afternoon, Reid had publicly denounced the attack.
"There was some stuff in the paper today that... (Collins) couldn't make up her mind what she wanted to do. That's really not true," Reid said. "She had made up her mind what she wanted to do. I just thought it was too much time."
Reid has not said when he will bring the defense bill up again, but time is short for completing work before the end of the year. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated Wednesday that his caucus will block consideration of any legislation until the Senate has resolved questions over the tax cuts and funding the federal government for the next year.
Reid later voiced his frustration at the Republicans' tactics.
"For this entire Congress, we have been -- as Muhammad Ali better said it than I -- rope-a-doped. They stall, they have excuses for not doing things," Reid said. "The American people don't want that. They want us to work together. And throwing up these artificial roadblocks is just foolishness."