Senate

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 Feinstein (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Ed Marley (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) voted against the bill. 

The Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this year is named after GOP Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who chairs the Armed Services Committee but is in Arizona battling brain cancer.

{mosads}”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 Inhofe (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 Thornberry (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 Corker (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 McConnell (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 Graham (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.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bob Corker Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Jeff Merkley Jim Inhofe John McCain Kirsten Gillibrand Lindsey Graham Mac Thornberry Mike Lee Mitch McConnell Rand Paul
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