McCain questions if Reid cares about service members

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) questioned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) priorities Thursday after the leader waited until the end of the year to bring up the defense authorization bill.

“One has to wonder about the priorities of the party and the majority leader,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “Isn’t that a commentary that my friends on the other side and the majority leader on how they feel about our service members?”

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McCain said Reid should have brought the Senate’s committee-passed bill to the floor much sooner, because work was completed on the legislation in June.

“Why are we here in December?” McCain said. “And frankly I don’t have a very good answer.”

The House and Senate are expected to pass a $600 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before they leave for Christmas. The House will pass the bill Thursday evening, but the Senate isn’t expected to take the legislation up until next week.

McCain said it was “outrageous” that the Senate won’t be able to debate and amend the NDAA this year. The Senate was debating the bill before lawmakers left for Thanksgiving, but committee leaders decided there wasn’t enough time to finish the process before the end of the year. Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees negotiated a compromise in order to quickly pass the measure.

“We are left with a really unsavory parliamentary situation,” McCain said.

Congress has passed the NDAA for 51 years in a row. 

The bill includes some protections for victims of sexual assault, such as providing a lawyer for victims and criminalizing retaliation against victims who report assaults. 

The bill allows the transfer of Guantánamo Bay detainees to foreign countries for trail, but does not allow them to come to the United States.

McCain said that despite the poor parliamentary process, it was important for lawmakers to pass the measure so that service members continue to receive combat pay and bonuses, among other reasons.