OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Senate starts work on defense bill

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinThe Fed and a return to banking simplicity What Our presidential candidates can learn from Elmo Zumwalt Will there be a 50-50 Senate next year? MORE (D-Mich.) and ranking member Sen. John McCainJohn McCainLots of (just) talk about 'draining the swamp' 56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race Is Georgia turning blue? 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.”

One of the most contentious amendments was tackled early, as the Senate voted on an amendment from Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallColorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open Energy issues roil race for Senate Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium 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 MurrayPatty MurrayWhat the 'Bernie Sanders wing of the GOP' can teach Congress Senate Dems demand answers from Wells Fargo over treatment of military A fight for new rights 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 CollinsRepublican opposition to raising the minimum wage Is crumbling 5 takeaways from the Indiana Senate debate GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (R-Maine) and Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerGlobal climate pact may bump into Senate roadblock GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Trump appoints fundraiser to national security advisory council 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 Graham56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race High anxiety for GOP NYC mayor: Trump sounds like ‘a third-world dictator’ MORE (R-S.C.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteLate polls show Dems gaining in governor races High anxiety for GOP Trump: 'Very disappointed' GOP senator dropped support 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.”


— 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

Please send tips and comments to Jeremy Herb, jherb@thehill.com, and Carlo Muñoz, cmunoz@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @DEFCONHill, @JHerbTheHill, @CMunozTheHill

You can sign up to receive this overnight update via email on The Hill’s homepage.