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.

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The Senate's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this year is named after GOP Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainIf you don't think illegal immigrants are voting for president, think again 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era Earth Day founder's daughter: Most Republican leaders believe in climate change in private 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 Armed Services chair 'no longer concerned' about training for border troops Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Overnight Defense: Senators show skepticism over Space Force | Navy drops charges against officers in deadly collision | Trump taps next Navy chief 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 ThornberryOvernight Defense: Air Force general tapped for Pentagon No. 2 | Dem presses Trump officials on Yemen strike | Pentagon details 4M border deployment cost Top Armed Services Republican: 'I don't think anybody is satisfied' with Space Force proposal Top senators warn Turkey: Choose between Russia missile system or US fighter jet 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 CorkerPollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge GOP gets used to saying 'no' to Trump Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump on tariffs 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote McConnell: 'Time to move on' from Trump impeachment talk 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 GrahamIf you don't think illegal immigrants are voting for president, think again Graham challenges Dems to walk the walk on impeachment Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars 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.