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 FeinsteinGraham says he will call Mueller to testify before Senate panel about Russia probe Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Bottom line MORE (Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos Democratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter MORE (N.Y), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Senators raise concerns over Facebook's civil rights audit Biden's marijuana plan is out of step with public opinion MORE (Calif.), Ed Marley (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyHillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem Democratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed plane MORE (Ore.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Trump defends Roger Stone move: He was target of 'Witch Hunt' Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' MORE (Mass.), Independent Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden wins Puerto Rico primary In politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Biden wins Louisiana primary MORE (Vt.) and GOP Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard Paul'Live with it' is the new GOP response to COVID — but no, we can't do that Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads How conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases MORE (Utah) voted against the bill. 

The Senate's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this year is named after GOP Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain's reset: US-Vietnam relations going strong after 25 years Senate outlook slides for GOP Juan Williams: Time for boldness from Biden 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 InhofeLincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Senate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan 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 ThornberryRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide House panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House Armed Services votes to make Pentagon rename Confederate-named bases in a year 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 CorkerCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism 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 McConnellCongress pulls punches on Russian bounties firestorm Congress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok 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 says he will call Mueller to testify before Senate panel about Russia probe Romney blasts Trump's Stone commutation: 'Historic corruption' Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad 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.