Democrats mull cutting into Thanksgiving break amid pile up

Democrats are warning they could cut into the Thanksgiving Day recess as they try to make progress on a sweeping defense policy bill. 

The Senate typically leaves town on Thursday afternoon the week before Thanksgiving, and they are scheduled to return to Washington on Nov. 29. 

But Senate Democrats say they could stay in Washington into the weekend to try to make headway on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The defense bill typically passes by a wide, bipartisan margin, but because it attracts hundreds of amendments it can eat up roughly two weeks of floor time. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"I think what we would like to do would be to finish the NDAA before Thanksgiving, so it could be later this week, it could be into Friday or Saturday, it could be early next week," said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat This week: Democrats set for showdown on voting rights, filibuster Democrats see good chance of Garland prosecuting Trump MORE (D-Va.). "The leader said he would really like to either get NDAA done before Thanksgiving or have it all done before a final passage vote." 

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBiden to huddle with Senate Democrats as voting bill on brink of defeat US budget deficit narrows sharply Senate Democrats grow less confident in Manchin MORE (D-Md.) added they could stay in to try to drive cooperation on allowing for votes on amendments to the defense bill. 

"If you don't have cooperation by Thursday or Friday then maybe by Saturday or Sunday or Monday or Tuesday," Cardin said, adding that Democrats want a "path forward" before they leave. 

Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenHogan won't say if he will file to run for Senate by Feb. 22 deadline Top Republicans pressing Hogan to run for Senate Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit MORE (D-Md.) added that Democrats are "prepared to be here this weekend if necessary" to work on the defense bill.  

"It all depends. We want to try to finish it before Thanksgiving," he said, but added that it was "possible" completion of the bill could slip until after the break.  

ADVERTISEMENT

The Senate is scheduled to take an initial vote on Wednesday. They'll need 60 votes to advance the bill toward the Senate floor, a hurdle it is expected to easily meet. That sets up the Senate to start debate on the defense bill as early as Thursday, absent a deal to speed things up. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerKelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Hundreds attend mass funeral for victims of Bronx apartment building fire Romney: I never got a call from White House to discuss voting rights MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday that he will add China competitiveness legislation into the defense bill and wants a vote on a repeal of the 2002 Iraq War authorization as an amendment. 

That is one of the hundreds of amendments that are likely to be filed, with Republicans pushing for votes on a handful of policies including an effort by conservatives to oppose a provision in the bill that would require women to register for selective service.  

Despite the mountain of potential amendments, only a handful typically get a vote as part of the Senate's consideration of the defense bill. Any senator can block any other senator from being able to get a vote, unless Schumer is willing to eat up days of floor time and force a vote.

Schumer urged Republicans to agree to speed up the defense bill, saying that he wants to "have as many votes as possible this week" and "either complete the bill or get on a path that gets it done."

ADVERTISEMENT

"We Democrats are ready to do that and I hope that our Republicans can join us. ... We can start voting on amendments as early as tomorrow," he said. 

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinClyburn says he 'wholeheartedly' endorses Biden's voting rights remarks GOP senator knocks Biden for 'spreading things that are untrue' in voting rights speech Sinema, Manchin curb Biden's agenda MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said they could stay in through the weekend but that Schumer was looking for a path to wrapping up the bill.

"Nothing is sacred when it comes to politics. We've been here Christmas Eve. We've been here New Year's Day. We've been here New Year's Eve. Nothing is sacred," Durbin said.

The NDAA is one of several issues on Democrats' to-do list. Congress faces a Dec. 3 deadline to fund the government, Democrats are working to pass President BidenJoe BidenMacro grid will keep the lights on Pelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE's social and climate spending bill and they are expected to soon need to raise the debt ceiling. 

Updated at 6:33 p.m.