Defense lawmakers: It’s this bill or nothing

The heads of the Senate Armed Services Committee are looking to quickly defuse any anger toward their plan to move the $607 billion Defense authorization bill through the Senate without considering amendments.

They still have some work to do to mend fences, but there doesn’t yet appear to be a widespread Republican effort to block the bill.

{mosads}Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he would be speaking with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) later Tuesday about the plan, which was announced Monday, to pass an informal conference report through the House and Senate without amendments.

Senate Republicans filibustered the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before the Thanksgiving recess over a dispute about amendment votes, and McConnell has not said yet whether he will support the effort to quickly move the bill so it passes this year.

Some are fuming over the strategy.

“No, I’m not OK [with it],” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told reporters. “When was the last time we had a bill we didn’t have any amendments on?”

Asked what he would do to block the bill, Coburn said: “Anything I can.”

There were hundreds of amendments filed to the Defense bill, and Republicans — as well as some Democrats — wanted a vote on a tougher Iran sanctions measure as part of the authorization measure.

But senators who support tougher sanctions say they don’t expect the measure will come on the Defense bill when the Senate takes it up next week.

“Probably not as part of the defense bill,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is working on a new sanctions bill. “Both Republicans and Democrats want to see an NDAA, and it’s important. And in my mind, the question is will we have an opportunity at some point, a real opportunity at some point, to consider what we should do next on Iran, and I think that opportunity will develop itself.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that the Defense bill was one vehicle for passing new Iran sanctions, but it wasn’t the only one.

“That’d be fine with me I guess,” Graham said when asked about the plan to push forward the authorization bill with no amendments. “I just want to be assured we’ll take up sanctions. If we can produce a bipartisan product, I think we’ll get a vote.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said there is opposition to the quick-vote plan, but said the Defense bill is too important to block.

“I’ve heard concerns about bringing up an expedited timeline, but I’ve heard a lot more concerns that for the first time in [more than 50] years, we wouldn’t have a Defense authorization bill,” McCain said.

McCain slammed Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for putting the Senate in the spot where it had no choice but to ram the measure through.

“It’s disgraceful that we didn’t bring this bill to the floor a long time ago, thereby squeezing the time frame to the point where we’re having to resort to extraordinary measures,” he said. “So the blame can be put at the doorstep of the majority leader.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has argued that moving the bill without amendments is the only possible way to pass the Defense bill this year, because the House adjourns on Friday.

He and other Armed Services leaders argue that not passing the bill this year would have negative consequences because it would disrupt things like combat pay for troops.

“I’m making a very clear statement: If this bill is amended in either the House or the Senate, it just isn’t going to pass,” Levin said. “I don’t have a Plan C.” 

Tags Carl Levin Iran sanctions James Inhofe NDAA
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