Dana Bash: Sen. Collins' not so secret phone call

A couple of sources gave me a heads up that moderate Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins is considered such a crucial vote on the Defense bill, Vice President Joe Biden called her this morning to lobby her. Collins supports repealing the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy. She was the only Republican to vote with Democrats in committee to approve the language in the bill that allows the repeal, after a Pentagon review is complete and military leaders sign off. But she is signaling that Tuesday's procedural vote, she is sticking with her party.

CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett caught up with Collins outside the Senate chamber just now and asked her about the call, and she was really surprised we knew about it.

Here's how the conversation went:



Collins: "Now how did you know Vice President Biden called me? Geez. He told me it was a secret call. We just talked about my frustration that I support the provisions in the Defense bill on 'don't ask, don't tell' and yet the process is such that it's forcing me to cast a vote against proceeding to the bill in order to protect minority rights. He seemed to understand that. Having been a senator for as long as Joe Biden was, he has a great understanding for the frustrations."

Ted: "So, he called to try to persuade you?"

Collins: "No, it was a discussion. He knows he doesn't have to persuade me on the underlying issue. I agree with it."

A footnote to that conversation: After their call Collins went to the Senate floor to plead with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid one last time for what she calls an open process that allows her colleagues to offer amendments to change the bill. A spokesman for Reid made clear to us, no deal. Democrats insist Republicans will in fact have ample opportunity to offer amendments – after the election.