Senate advances Defense bill

The Senate on Thursday advanced the $585 billion Defense bill.

The procedural vote was necessary because some GOP senators objected to the inclusion of an unrelated lands package in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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“The NDAA for fiscal year 2015 is a legislative hodgepodge that includes those straightforward, noncontroversial items that almost all of us support, but also numerous other provisions that are unrelated to national defense,” Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeSenate Democrats block Zika agreement ahead of recess GOP senator pushes Trump to adopt 'constitutional agenda' Waterways bill eyed as solution for Flint MORE (R-Utah) said. “Most egregiously, the drafters secretly added 68 unrelated bills pertaining to the use of federal lands.”

Despite those objections, the Senate voted 85-14 to end debate on the motion to concur with the House on S. 3979, advancing the measure for a final vote expected no later than Friday. 

Last week, the House passed the bill, which authorizes Pentagon spending for 2015. An agreement could be reached to hold the Senate's final passage vote sooner, but it would require the consent of all senators.

As the House prepares to leave town Thursday night, the bill's authors made it clear it that this bill was the only chance to pass an NDAA authorization by the end of the year.

“We have to pass this bill,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said ahead of the vote. “The House is going to go home and there are no ways to make any changes.” 

Senators on both sides of the aisle defended the lands use portion, saying the Congressional Budget Office reported it would be deficit neutral. It designates new national parks and wilderness areas and expedites the permit process for oil and gas drilling, among other things.

“That is why the package of lands bills in the National Defense Authorization Act is vitally important to America.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “This compromise is the chance for the Senate to get something done.”

Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees worked for weeks to reach the deal by the end of the year — something every Congress for the last 52 years has done.

The bill authorizes $521 billion in base discretionary spending for Defense Department activities, as well as $64 billion for overseas contingency operations. It includes provisions to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

This year's negotiated bill was named after the retiring chairmen of the Armed Services committees: Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

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