Senate Democrats block defense bill for third time

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Democrats blocked a defense spending bill for a third time on Thursday as they pushed for a deal on how to move funding legislation through the Senate.

Senators voted 51-44 in a procedural vote on taking up the $579 billion House-passed bill. Sixty votes were needed to move forward.

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Democrats previously blocked the legislation in June and September while demanding a budget accord. Sen. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyOvernight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal Senate Democrats block Zika agreement ahead of recess Post Orlando, hawks make a power play MORE (Ind.) was the only Democrat to vote for the legislation on Thursday.

Top Democrats this week sent strong signals that they would block the legislation over concerns that moving a stand-alone defense bill would allow Republicans to renege on a two-year budget agreement.

Republicans denied any intention to go back on the budget deal and slammed Democrats as obstructionist.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerFormer Gillibrand aide wins NY House primary Senate faces critical vote on Puerto Rico Juan Williams: GOP sounds the sirens over Trump MORE (D-N.Y.) said earlier this week that the Senate "could pass a defense bill and then they could say, 'Well, we'll do a [continuing resolution] on the rest of it,' violating the 50-50 deal. We need to negotiate an omnibus all at once and all together."

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinReid backs House Puerto Rico bill McConnell pledges redo vote on Zika after break Senate Democrats want new round of Zika talks MORE (D-Ill.) added Thursday that Democrats deciding to block the bill had little to do with the substance, calling the work on it "extraordinary."  

"Now it's going to be a procedural vote, which we would anticipate is not going to allow this bill to move forward. It is not a reflection on the substance of the bill, at all," he added. 

But the tactics got vocal pushback from Republicans, who suggested they are frustrated that Democrats continue to block the legislation despite the budget agreement that passed last week.

"I'm saying don't go there because you're going to set in motion an irreversible course in this Senate, and I'm going to lead it," Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderBipartisan gun measure survives test vote Overnight Healthcare: GOP plan marks new phase in ObamaCare fight Stoddard: The great Trump rebellion MORE (R-Tenn.) said, adding that "we have the majority and you don't. So if you want to play that kind of game, we can play that game too."

Moderate Republican Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsDemocrats stage protest during brief House session Reid: McConnell silence on Trump 'speaks volumes' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Maine) added on Thursday morning that she is "truly perplexed" that Democrats are saying "there is a Republican plan to enact only the defense appropriations bill and then proceed to a continuing resolution for all of the other appropriations bills."

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump hires Rand Paul's former digital director: report Overnight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal Overnight Healthcare: Blame game over Zika funding MORE (R-Ky.) tried to reassure Democrats on Wednesday evening, saying that Republicans "have every intention of then moving on to other appropriations bills."

"Our members worked very hard on those bills. Nearly all of the appropriations measures passed committee with support from both parties. We obviously want to process them all," he said.

The partisan bickering comes less than a week after lawmakers came together to pass the two-year budget agreement. Under the accord, defense spending would be set at $607 billion, including $59 billion in war funding.

Lawmakers now have until mid-December to pass legislation — either individually or as an omnibus — that would fund the government and avoid a shutdown.

Lawmakers are already battling over controversial policy riders, including trying to unwind parts of ObamaCare. Democrats quickly blasted Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanCoal’s clout in Congress to take a hit Overnight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal Overnight Defense: Benghazi report fallout | Nearly 50 dead after Istanbul attack MORE, after the Wisconsin Republican refused to rule out including the policy riders during a press conference this week.

McConnell has also suggested that there will be riders in the appropriations bills, adding, "of course there will be riders in the appropriations bills. I'm having a hard time remembering one that didn't."