Senate passes $716B defense bill

Senate passes $716B defense bill
© Greg Nash

The Senate easily cleared a mammoth defense policy bill for the 2019 fiscal year on Monday.

Senators voted 85-10 on the defense authorization legislation, well over the simple majority needed to pass it.

Democratic Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinEncryption helps America work safely — and that goes for Congress, too Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children DOJ probing stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of coronavirus crisis: report MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Biden fights for attention in coronavirus news cycle Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package MORE (N.Y), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Is Texas learning to love ObamaCare? MORE (Calif.), Ed Marley (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (Ore.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (Mass.), Independent Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report We're at war and need wartime institutions to keep our economy producing what's necessary Larry David: Bernie Sanders should drop out of 2020 race MORE (Vt.) and GOP Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGeorgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Trump on Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'I am so happy I can barely speak' MORE (Utah) voted against the bill. 

The Senate's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this year is named after GOP Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDemocratic super PAC targets McSally over coronavirus response GOP senator suspending campaign fundraising, donating paycheck amid coronavirus pandemic Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE (Ariz.), who chairs the Armed Services Committee but is in Arizona battling brain cancer.

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"We will miss his voice in the chamber today, but today's vote is true tribute to his lasting legacy to our nation," said Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC Overnight Defense: Stimulus bill has .5B for Pentagon | Money would be blocked from border wall | Esper orders 60-day freeze for overseas troop movements Senate panel switches to 'paper hearings' amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Okla.), who is managing the bill in McCain's absence. 

The wide-ranging legislation includes roughly $716 billion in spending, including $617.6 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and $21.6 billion for defense-related programs of the Energy Department.

It would also include roughly $68.5 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account, and another $8.2 billion in defense-related spending outside the jurisdiction of the NDAA.

The Senate's vote clears the way for a conference with the House where lawmakers will need to merge their competing versions of the bill. 

Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryPentagon gets heat over protecting service members from coronavirus Top Armed Services Republican unveils proposals on military families, acquisition reform House panel delays consideration of annual defense policy bill MORE (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters last week that he wants to wrap up the conference committee on the two chambers’ bills by the end of July. 

Top among provisions that will need to be hashed out in conference is a provision in the Senate bill that would block President Trump's deal to save Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. 

The White House and top allies on Capitol Hill are pledging to try to get the provision removed. 

The final vote on the defense bill comes after frustrations mounted as Republicans blocked each other from getting votes on hundreds of amendments, including one from Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight MORE (R-Tenn.) that would have required congressional approval for tariffs implemented in the name of national security. 

Under the chamber’s rules, any one senator can block another senator from getting a vote unless Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.) wants to eat up days of floor time. 

GOP senators lashed out at each other on the floor last week as they tried, but failed, to get votes on their own proposals. GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Trump says he's considering restricting travel to coronavirus 'hot spots' MORE (S.C.) is blocking Paul from getting a vote on an indefinite detention proposal. In return, Paul and Lee blocked votes on other amendments. 

Those frustrations also boiled over during a closed-door lunch, when Lee lamented the lack of amendment votes and Corker brought up his inability to get a vote on his tariff proposal.

Graham, who reportedly blasted both of them during the lunch, acknowledged after the caucus meeting that he “ran a little hot” and had to apologize for his remarks.