Senate defense bill at standstill over amendment fight
© Greg Nash

A mammoth annual defense policy bill is facing a fight over which amendments will get a vote — a familiar roadblock in the Senate.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R-Ariz.) said the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is at an "impasse" as senators are demanding votes on their own proposals and holding up others from potentially getting a vote. 
 
"I hope overnight my colleagues on both sides would sit down and figure out, as we have a number of amendments, a way that we can reach a point where we can have up-or-down votes on these amendments which are important to the nation," McCain said from the Senate floor. 
 
More than 400 amendments have been filed to the annual defense policy bill, which normally passes with bipartisan support but is a lightning rod for other issues because of its status as a must-pass bill. 
 
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Shortly after McCain's comments, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Kavanaugh accuser set to testify Thursday McConnell told Trump criticism of Kavanaugh accuser isn't helpful: report MORE (R-Ky.) teed up votes to bring debate on the bill to a close.

The move — absent a deal — will effectively force the Senate to run the clock until an initial vote on ending debate on the NDAA can occur, as soon as Friday. Senators could get a deal to wrap up the bill faster though, with McCain floating the idea that without additional amendment votes they could finish it tomorrow.
  
"I must say that we're at an impasse on about four amendments, all four of which are important amendments, and we simply can't get an agreement," McCain said. "We'll probably call for the Majority Leader to file cloture." 
 
 
The impasse comes after Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulA Senator Gary Johnson could be good not just for Libertarians, but for the Senate too Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE (R-Ky.) threatened to slow-walk the defense bill and block any other amendments from getting a vote until the Senate voted on his proposal to sunset two war authorizations. Senators shot down that measure earlier Wednesday in a 61-36 vote.
 
It's not the first time debate on the defense bill has been cut short because of a disagreement over amendments. 
 
Last year, McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blamed Lee for refusing to let any other amendment get a vote unless he got a separate vote on his proposal to ban detaining U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.
 
Graham said at the time that he offered Lee a deal that would have allowed the Utah Republican a vote if an Export-Import Bank measure was also brought up, but Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyTrump signs first 'minibus' spending package for 2019 Congress reaches deal to fund government through Dec. 7, preventing shutdown Senate approves first 2019 spending package MORE (R-Ala.) shot that down.
 
Despite the amendment squabble, senators were able to pass the 2016 bill in a 85-13 vote.