WASHINGTON, D.C., December 8, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has put off holding a cloture vote on a defense authorization bill that would allow abortion on military bases and repeal the ban on homosexual service, in order to negotiate for more GOP support. But sources say he may bring up the bill Thursday to try to break the GOP filibuster anyway.
While signs on Wednesday pointed to an evening vote on the more than $700 billion defense authorization bill for FY2011, Reid decided to postpone after negotiating with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
Collins has indicated that she supports passing the bill and repealing the 1993 law against homosexuals in the military (referred to by its corresponding Pentagon enforcement policy called “Don’t ask, don’t tell”).
But Collins told Reid that she would not vote to allow debate if her demands were not met: first, the GOP should be given the opportunity to pick which 15 amendments it wanted to debate; second the GOP should be given 34 hours of debate on those amendments.
Ultimately, Collins said that the Senate would also have to approve the extension of the Bush tax cuts and fund the federal government into next year before any members of the GOP caucus (including those favorable to repeal of DADT) would vote on the defense authorization bill.
The GOP controls 42 out of 100 seats in the US Senate, and the minority filibuster can only be broken by a three-fifths majority (60 Senators) voting for cloture.
While Reid seemed ready to allow the 15 amendments, he refused to allow anything more than 17 hours of debate, at which point negotiations broke down and Reid cancelled the cloture vote.
Reports said both President Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) were busy Wednesday trying to whip up 60 votes for cloture.
But according to the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, a U.S. Senate aide says that Reid is determined to have a vote for cloture on the bill Thursday anyway, whether he has the 60 votes or not.
The defense bill also includes an amendment submitted by then-Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) that would overturn the 1996 federal ban on abortions at U.S. military bases.
The 1996 ban, which contains exceptions in case of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother, had been put in place by Congress after President Clinton signed a memorandum permitting abortions at military facilities in 1993. Clinton’s memorandum had overridden a Reagan-era policy prohibiting abortions in military facilities.
The existence of that provision raises the question of whether U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who ran on a pro-life platform, will vote against allowing debate to move forward.
However the U.S. House version of the defense authorization bill does not contain the Senate’s repeal of the ban on abortions at military bases (although it does repeal DADT), meaning the two bills will have to be reconciled.
US Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, has previously said that he did not believe the House would approve a final bill including the abortion provision.