Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Monday that both chambers need to ensure a defense bill can be signed into law for a 52nd straight year.
The Senate was working on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes more than $600 billion in defense spending for the Pentagon, before leaving for a two-week Thanksgiving break.
“We have not missed in 52 years,” Levin said. “We cannot fail this year and the only practical way to avoid failure is to follow the course that Sen. Inhofe and I have proposed to this body.”
“We sat down with our counterparts on the House side … to come up with a bill that would have a chance of getting passed in both houses,” Levin said on the Senate floor. “This is the only practical way to get a defense bill done this year.”
Levin said the goal is to have the House pass the measure this week and the Senate will pass it next week.
Senators wanted several amendment votes on issues such as Guantánamo Bay detainees, military sexual assault, Iran sanctions, the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs and Syria, but as the end of the year nears time is running out for a long debate and voting process.
Levin said 20 protections for victims of sexual assault were included in the bill, such as providing a lawyer for victims and criminalizing retaliation against victims who report assaults.
The bill also allows the transfer of Guantánamo Bay detainees to foreign countries for trial, but maintains House language banning the detainees from coming to the United States.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined Inhofe and Levin, saying it was unfortunate the bill has to be finished this way, but it was necessary.
"If we can’t even pass a bill that authorizes what they need to defend us with, it is shameful," McCain said.