Inhofe, McCain lobby GOP on Defense bill

The top two Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee are urging their colleagues to put aside any ill will toward Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to get the Defense authorization bill passed this week.

In a letter to Republican senators to be delivered Monday, Armed Services ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and his predecessor Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) argue that Republicans must go along with Reid’s plan to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week without considering amendments.

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They argue the bill is the most important one passed by Congress each year, and this is the only way it will get done for the 52nd consecutive year.

“If we thought there was a better way to pass the NDAA this year, we would pursue that option,” the senators write in the letter obtained by The Hill. “At this late stage, however, we don’t believe there is another option.”

Inhofe and McCain acknowledge the frustration with the “growing dysfunction” in the upper chamber and with Reid. But they say that Republicans cannot “let our frustration break the solemn commitment we have to our nation’s security and the military men and women who sacrifice for that security.”

McCain and Inhofe warn there will be consequences if the Defense bill does not pass, warning of “disruptions, schedule delays, and cost increases that will waste millions of taxpayer dollars.”

The senators predict that the Defense bill won’t pass at all if it does not get done before the end of the year, pointing to the busy legislative schedule at the start of next year to pass a government funding measure and then to deal with the debt ceiling.

The $607 billion Pentagon policy bill passed the House overwhelmingly on Thursday, after the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services panels unveiled a final compromise measure at the beginning of last week.

The Senate, however, barely got a chance to consider amendments to the legislation, as it stalled before Thanksgiving over a dispute about amendment votes.

Inhofe and McCain have been placed in the awkward position of joining with Reid to push for quick passage of the Defense bill, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised objections to that approach last week.