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Without deal on process, Collins a 'no'

From NBC's Ken Strickland
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said moments ago that unless Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell can reach an agreement that allows for the consideration of Republican amendments, she will vote against starting debate on the bill that includes a repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy banning gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military.

"I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down the debate and preclude Republican amendments," Collins said in a floor speech.

Reid is willing to work with Republicans on the amendment process, his aides say, but Republicans remain skeptical without an official agreement. Such agreements are common in Senate procedures to initiate debate on a bill or to finish a bill.

With only 59 votes in the Democratic caucus, Reid needs at least one Republican senator to vote with Democrats to get the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster. So far, no Republicans have agreed to do so.

Collins plays a a key role in the debate as the only Republican on the Armed Services Committee who voted with Democrats in favor of repealing the ban.

"Now is not the time to play politics simply because an election is looming in a few weeks," Collins said.