Defense bill hits Rand Paul speed bump
© Greg Nash
 
Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeIs the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? Republicans grumble over Trump shifting military funds to wall Gun debate to shape 2020 races MORE (R-Okla.) says Paul is slow-walking the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), including forcing lawmakers to wait until next week to formally proceed to the defense bill.
 
"He could actually block this for a long period of time," Inhofe said, adding that lawmakers need to finish the bill by the end of next week. 
 
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It's a familiar dynamic over the defense legislation. A fight between Paul and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Cruz to oppose Trump appeals court pick Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir MORE (R-S.C.) led to an amendment bottleneck last year, and the bill faced a similar stalemate over amendments 2017.
 
The NDAA's status as a must-pass piece of legislation makes it a lightning rod for hundreds of amendments, only a handful of which get votes. It also allows members to effectively block votes on any other amendments, or speeding up consideration of the bill, unless they also get guaranteed an amendment vote. 
 
Paul said on Thursday that he isn't blocking the bill, but instead requiring leadership to run out the procedural clock.
 
Leadership had hoped to formally bring up the bill on Thursday, but that would require every senator to yield back the 30 hours of debate time required before the vote takes place. Instead, they'll vote to take up the bill on Monday evening.
 
"There's a normal process, you go through like 30 hours of this, 30 hours that, you have votes. It takes about four days to get a bill through. So no one can hold a bill or block a bill," Paul said. 
 
But, he added, "I do believe that we should demand that there's an open debate with amendments." 
 
Paul could block other senators from getting an amendment vote, unless they agree to give him a vote on his proposals. 
 
He's filed six amendments to the NDAA, including one repealing the 2001 war authorization and forcing President TrumpDonald John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan within a year and a second prohibiting indefinite detention. 
 
The two amendments are similar to proposals that have emerged as sticking points during the defense bill debate in previous years. Paul hasn't said, yet, that he will block other amendments if he can't get a vote, but Inhofe signaled he thinks that's where the bill is going.
 
"We've been talking about this for three weeks. Remember what happened last year? Sure enough it seems to be happening again this year," Inhofe said, referring to the standoff over amendments. 
 
Asked about giving Paul votes on his amendments, Inhofe added that it would encourage other senators to take the defense bill hostage. 
 
"If you establish a policy that no matter what the amendment is, all you have to do is hold up everything and you do that, then you get 10 people doing that, and 20 people doing that," he said. "Then you never get a bill done."