Proposal to move defense bill running into new GOP objections

At least three Republican senators have put holds on a proposal to vote on 21 amendments to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), imperiling the chances of getting the legislation passed through the Senate this week.

The top-priority legislation has passed on an annual basis for 60 years, but it's hitting a major snag because of a partisan fight over amending the legislation.

The biggest sticking point had been an amendment sponsored by Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to place sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, a company owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Senate leaders worked out a deal Tuesday evening to vote on a package of 21 amendments, including Risch's proposal to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and are running it through a "hotline" to see if they can get the agreement of all 100 senators to move forward.

But the deal is running into objections from senators whose amendments were left aside.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) on Wednesday predicted that the request for unanimous consent to move the stalled defense bill won't get through the Senate GOP conference.

"Last time I checked, there were three holds with more coming, and those have all got to be negotiated," he said.

Kennedy, who has put one of the holds on the legislation, said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is trying to ram the legislation through the Senate without giving Republicans enough opportunity to change it.

"I think Sen. Schumer has tried to - as we say in Louisiana - has tried to rinky-do us over this. He's delayed and delayed and delayed bringing up the NDAA and then he sprang it on us and wanted us to just accept it without offering amendments and that's just not realistic," Kennedy added.

A second Senate Republican predicted that Republicans would not sign off on Schumer's latest amendment proposal.

"I think it's important we have a normal amendment process," said a GOP member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who requested anonymity to discuss GOP strategy on the bill. "I don't think our caucus will help [Schumer] out of his problem. He needs to have a normal amendment process."

Senate Republicans will discuss how to proceed on the defense bill in more detail at a conference lunch scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.