Defense & Homeland Security

Levin: Defense bill may fall off schedule if procedural vote fails

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee
said the
defense authorization bill may not win approval this year if it does not
pass a
key procedural hurdle on Tuesday.

Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.), the leading Democrat on
military
affairs, on Monday warned that failure to secure enough votes on
Tuesday’s
motion to proceed would be “a real setback” for the 2011 defense
authorization
bill.

{mosads}He said the legislation could still move after the
election,
but that any lame-duck session would be unpredictable.

“I can’t predict what will happen in the lame-duck,” Levin
said. Those who make predictions have “a lot more courage than I do,”
he
added. 


Democrats need 60 votes to proceed to the bill, but
the
outcome is in doubt because the legislation includes language repealing
the ban
on openly gay men and women serving in the military.

Democratic leaders also plan to include an
immigration-related
provision known as the DREAM Act that would give a pathway to
citizenship to
children of illegal immigrants who attend a U.S. college for two years
or join
the military.

Levin, who will manage the defense authorization
bill on the
Senate floor this week, said he did not know whether there are 60
votes to
cut off debate on the so-called motion to proceed to the defense bill.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the leading Republican
on
military issues, opposes repealing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law
banning gays
from serving openly in the military, and also argues the DREAM Act
should not
be added to the defense bill.

One Republican, Susan Collins (Maine), voted in favor of the repeal provision during the armed services
panel’s deliberations earlier this year, but it is yet unclear whether
they
will vote the same way on the floor.

It’s unclear if all Democrats will vote to proceed.
Sen. Jim
Webb (D-Va.), for example, voted against the provision to repeal the
military’s
ban.

Levin on Monday refuted the GOP’s case that the
immigration
provision doesn’t have a place on the defense authorization bill. He
said the rules of the Senate permit that amendment to be offered.

“People use the rules here [in the Senate],” Levin
said at a
news conference. “People have the right to use the rules.”

Levin added that the debate should focus on the
merits of
repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and of approving the DREAM Act rather
than on
procedure.

Levin said that the DREAM Act is likely to
be the
first amendment debated as part of the defense bill. The defense
authorization bill, which includes many critical military policies
including
authority for pay raises, is considered a must-pass bill. It’s been
passed by
Congress for 48 consecutive years.

—This story was updated at 5:06 p.m.

Tags Carl Levin John McCain Susan Collins
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