Senate Democrats block defense spending bill

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Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a spending bill for the Pentagon for a second time, ahead of an end-of-the-month deadline to fund the government and avoid a shutdown.

Senators voted 54-42 on a procedural vote on taking up the fiscal year 2016 Defense Appropriations Bill. Sixty votes were needed to move forward.

{mosads}The vote comes after Democrats first blocked the spending bill in June. As in that vote, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) was the only Democrat to vote for moving forward with the spending bill on Tuesday.

Senate Democrats have been pledging for months to block any bill that doesn’t increase funding for both defense and nondefense programs. They suggested that Tuesday’s vote was the latest in a string of “show votes” being held by Republicans instead of pivoting to a short-term spending bill.

“[Republicans] don’t want to sit down. Instead, they want us to go through these show votes,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate’s number two Democrat, said.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) added that “we voted on this before. It seems that’s what we’ve done the last few weeks, voting again. … The result will be the same.”

The vote comes as lawmakers have a handful of days to figure out a path forward on a spending bill before the Oct. 1 deadline to fund the government and avoid a shutdown.

Democrats have repeatedly called on Republicans to sit down and negotiate a deal on a larger budget that rolls back the congressionally mandated spending caps.

Durbin doubled down on that on Tuesday, saying “I think we should be rolling up our sleeves and tackling this issue. I don’t want to see a government shutdown.”

Instead, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pressed President Obama to ask Senate Democrats to “end the blockade” on spending bills.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Senate’s number two Republican, suggested that Democrats blocking the defense spending bill would be an extension of their “filibuster summer” and amounts to holding the military “hostage.”

“Holding up this legislation is unfortunately indicative of a larger strategy of keeping the Senate tied in knots,” he added. “[But] this is far too dangerous and the threats are far too important.”

The battle over the defense budget comes as Senate Republicans remain tightlipped about the path forward on a short-term spending bill to fund the government.

Republican leadership is under pressure to use the spending bill to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of a string of controversial videos leaked by an anti-abortion group. McConnell, however, has dismissed the tactic and also pledged to prevent the government from shuttering.

Reid suggested earlier Tuesday that the Senate would take a procedural vote Thursday on a short-term government spending bill that would also defund Planned Parenthood.

The bill would likely fail to get the 60 votes needed to move forward, and the Senate could then move to a short-term spending bill that included funding for the organization.

Under that timeline, McConnell would need to tee up the bill on Tuesday, but a spokesperson for the Kentucky Republican said that he hasn’t “announced those plans yet.”

Tags Dick Durbin Harry Reid Joe Donnelly John Cornyn Mitch McConnell
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