McCain warns defense bill 'in danger' of not passing for first time in 50 years

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned Thursday that the Senate could fail to pass a defense authorization bill for the first time in 50 years.

McCain urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to allow a vote on the bill, which could become the victim of a time crunch on the floor. The bill would require several days of floor time to wade through potentially hundreds of amendments.

“It is not our right, it’s our obligation to get the authorization bill to the president’s desk,” McCain, the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, said from the Senate floor. “We may have significant disagreements, but for 50 years, this body has passed a defense authorization bill and it has been signed by the president of the United States, and we are in some danger of not having it happen, not letting this happen, this year.”

ADVERTISEMENT
The bill passed the Armed Services Committee unanimously in May, and at the time Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he expected it to come to the floor in June or July.

But time before the monthlong August recess is quickly running out, although Levin said Tuesday he remained “hopeful” it could come up before the recess.

The last two years, the bill has not been passed until the end of the year, and Reid held it up in a dispute about terror detainees last year.

This time around, however, there’s major concern about finishing the bill before the November election because of the mountain of legislation to be taken up during the lame-duck session. That likely includes dealing with sequestration and the $500 billion cut to defense, something that the Armed Services heads are also focused on.

The House has passed its authorization bill, which has some differences with the Senate bill that would need to be resolved in conference committee. The House bill is about $3 billion higher than the bill that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee.