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.

 
"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. 
 
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Shortly after McCain's comments, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea 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 four amendments causing the delay include a proposal on indefinite detention by Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Utah) and a "Buy America" proposal from Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight Week ahead: Senate to wrap up defense bill MORE (D-Wis.), according to McCain — though he noted other issues could crop up even if those were resolved. 
 
The impasse comes after Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Lawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program 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 ShelbySenate defense bill at standstill over amendment fight Woman arrested for laughing in Sessions hearing heading back to trial Senate Dems slam Banking chairman on nominee backlog MORE (R-Ala.) shot that down.
 
Despite the amendment squabble, senators were able to pass the 2016 bill in a 85-13 vote.