OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Senate starts work on defense bill

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinCongress: The sleeping watchdog Congress must not give companies tax reasons to move jobs overseas A lesson on abuse of power by Obama and his Senate allies MORE (D-Mich.) and ranking member Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.) are managing the bill and its numerous amendments, and they warned of long hours on the wide-ranging bill in the coming days.

“We’re going to have amendments and debate and if that requires long hours, then I think our colleagues should be prepared to do that,” McCain said Wednesday. “We’re not here to work three-day work weeks.”

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One of the most contentious amendments was tackled early, as the Senate voted on an amendment from Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.) on biofuels and the military.

Udall’s amendment overturned an amendment that had passed in committee restricting the military from purchasing biofuels that cost more than petroleum. The Senate passed Udall’s amendment 62-37.

A similar measure that restricts the military purchasing biofuels still remains in the House-passed defense authorization bills, making it one of the key issues that will need to be resolved in conference committee.

Embassy security amendment also adopted: The Senate also passed several amendments by voice-vote Wednesday, including one from McCain that would place more Marines at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.

McCain said the amendment was important in the wake of the attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The Senate also moved several other amendments on the defense bill by voice vote Wednesday afternoon, including one from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would discharge those found guilty of sexual violence in the military, and another from Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats turn on Al Franken VA slashes program that helps homeless veterans obtain housing: report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Wash.) to improve mental health and suicide services the Pentagon provides.

US shutters Afghan base named after Tillman: American troops have closed the forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan named after slain Army Ranger and former NFL star Pat Tillman.

The Hill’s Carlo Muñoz reports from Paktika, Afghanistan, that Army units based in Forward Operating base Orgun-E near the Afghan-Pakistan border shuttered the base that bore Tillman’s name over Thanksgiving.

“It's a soccer field ... kids are already playing on it,” one Army officer said.

The closure is a sign of the U.S. plans to withdraw most U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, when NATO will transfer security control to the Afghans.

Read more about the end of the base named for Tillman here.

Rice meetings with GOP continue: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice continued to meet with senators as she is considered on the short list to be nominated by President Obama as the next secretary of State.

On Wednesday, Rice met with Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (R-Maine) and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFormer Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report McConnell 'almost certain' GOP will pass tax reform Former New Mexico gov: Trump's foreign policy is getting 'criticized by everybody' MORE (R-Tenn.), who is set to become the next ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which would handle Rice’s confirmation should she be chosen.

The two Republican senators had different reactions one day after McCain and Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (R-S.C.) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteExplaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid Trump voter fraud panel member fights back against critics Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada MORE (R-N.H.) said they were unsatisfied with Rice’s answers.

Collins said she continued to be “troubled” by the fact that “the UN ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election.”

Corker, however, took a more diplomatic route, declining to criticize Rice after he met with her.

“I know that at some point I may play a semi-important role in who the next secretary of State may be,” Corker told reporters. “Whoever the president nominates, I certainly plan to sit down and give a full hearing to, as I’ve said from Day One, regardless of who that nominee is.”


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

— Report: Hagel vetted for Cabinet posts

— Senate passes sexual violence, mental health amendments

— Biofuel investments restored in defense bill

— Reid avoids filibuster to start defense bill debate


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