Senate defense bill at standstill over amendment fight
© Greg Nash

A mammoth annual defense policy bill is facing a fight over which amendments will get a vote — a familiar roadblock in the Senate.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore GOP strategist: 'There needs to be a repudiation' of Roy Moore by Republicans World leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report MORE (R-Ariz.) said the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is at an "impasse" as senators are demanding votes on their own proposals and holding up others from potentially getting a vote. 
"I hope overnight my colleagues on both sides would sit down and figure out, as we have a number of amendments, a way that we can reach a point where we can have up-or-down votes on these amendments which are important to the nation," McCain said from the Senate floor. 
More than 400 amendments have been filed to the annual defense policy bill, which normally passes with bipartisan support but is a lightning rod for other issues because of its status as a must-pass bill. 
Shortly after McCain's comments, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell expects Paul to return to Senate next week Former Hill staff calls for mandatory harassment training Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law MORE (R-Ky.) teed up votes to bring debate on the bill to a close.

The move — absent a deal — will effectively force the Senate to run the clock until an initial vote on ending debate on the NDAA can occur, as soon as Friday. Senators could get a deal to wrap up the bill faster though, with McCain floating the idea that without additional amendment votes they could finish it tomorrow.
"I must say that we're at an impasse on about four amendments, all four of which are important amendments, and we simply can't get an agreement," McCain said. "We'll probably call for the Majority Leader to file cloture." 
The impasse comes after Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP senator asks to be taken off Moore fundraising appeals Red state lawmakers find blue state piggy bank Prosecutors tell Paul to expect federal charges against attacker: report MORE (R-Ky.) threatened to slow-walk the defense bill and block any other amendments from getting a vote until the Senate voted on his proposal to sunset two war authorizations. Senators shot down that measure earlier Wednesday in a 61-36 vote.
It's not the first time debate on the defense bill has been cut short because of a disagreement over amendments. 
Last year, McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blamed Lee for refusing to let any other amendment get a vote unless he got a separate vote on his proposal to ban detaining U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.
Graham said at the time that he offered Lee a deal that would have allowed the Utah Republican a vote if an Export-Import Bank measure was also brought up, but Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff Justice Dept drops case against woman who laughed at Sessions Former Hill staff calls for mandatory harassment training MORE (R-Ala.) shot that down.
Despite the amendment squabble, senators were able to pass the 2016 bill in a 85-13 vote.