Reid wants to pass Defense bill without amendments

The Defense authorization bill has been swept up in the firestorm over the so-called "nuclear option," as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday he wants to move the Defense authorization bill through the Senate without any more amendments.

After the Senate voted Thursday to change its rules to prevent the minority party from filibustering nominations other than to the Supreme Court, Reid said that he hoped Republicans would agree to vote on ending debate for the Defense bill.

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Reid said that he wanted to get the bill passed, so the Senate could go to conference committee with the House and get the bill signed into law this year. Reid acknowledged that he did not know whether Republicans would agree to yield back the 30 hours required before a vote.

“Let’s vote for cloture on the Defense bill. That would allow Sens. [Carl] Levin (D-Mich.) and [James] Inhofe (R-Okla.) go to conference with the House,” Reid said. “Their bill is not perfect. Lots of people offered amendments.”

Reid’s push for a cloture vote and quick passage of the Pentagon policy bill would prevent votes on the hundreds of amendments that have been offered to the bill.

That includes votes on two sexual assault amendments from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Reid requested votes for the competing bills on Wednesday, but Republicans objected because they wanted to receive votes on more of their amendments.

Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, offered Reid 25 amendments for each side.

The bill was already stalled over the fight about amendments to the bill, and Reid’s push to change the filibuster rules. Republicans said they didn’t think any more work could happen on the Defense bill this week.

“Perhaps it can be resurrected over the two-week Thanksgiving break, but there’s no way on Earth the Senate will move to the Defense bill today,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Lawmakers in both chambers are concerned that pushing the bill beyond Thanksgiving would threaten its passage this year.

The Senate is taking a two-week recess, returning Dec. 9, and the House plans to adjourn at the end of that week on Dec. 13.

The two chambers will need to reconcile their bills through conference committee, which Levin, the Armed Services Committee chairman, has said can’t happen that quickly if the Senate doesn’t pass the Defense bill until December.

The Defense authorization bill is one of the few “must-pass” bills remaining in Congress, and it has been signed into law for 51 straight years.