Standoff scraps quick deal on Senate defense bill before Thanksgiving

Sen.Jack Reed (D-R.I.)
Greg Nash

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) tried several times on Thursday night to reach a deal to set up votes on a package of 18 amendments on a defense bill.

But one after one, seven GOP senators stood up to block the deal unless their colleagues agreed to add their amendment into the package. Those GOP amendments included proposals related to the border wall, the Nord Stream pipeline and the repeal of vaccine requirements for Defense Department contractors.

“We just proposed votes on 18 amendments, three of which are bipartisan and eight of which are Republican-led amendments. We could start voting on them tonight. But, unfortunately, the other side won’t agree. Or some on the other side won’t agree,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

Aides initially said earlier Friday that if they couldn’t get a deal to vote on potential changes to the defense bill they expected senators would have to return to the Capitol on Friday to continue negotiations.

Democrats warned earlier this week that they could cut into the Thanksgiving recess in order to make progress on the bill.

But instead, senators, as they were leaving the Senate floor after the stalemate, said that they didn’t expect the Senate to hold another roll-call vote until after the weeklong Thanksgiving break.

The Senate will come back into session at 10 a.m. on Friday. But Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) both said as they were leaving the Capitol on Thursday night that the Senate is expected to just agree to start debate on the defense bill with a voice vote on Friday, meaning most senators won’t need to return to the Capitol.

It’s unclear what will happen to the potential amendment package for the defense bill that leadership was hoping to cut a deal on before leaving for the Thanksgiving recess.

That amendment package included votes on priorities for both sides, including whether or not to add a repeal of the 2002 Iraq War authorization into the legislation. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was also poised to get a vote on his push to strip language out of the bill that requires women to sign up for the selective service.

But Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who as the majority whip is the No. 2 Senate Democrat, suggested that votes on potential amendments to the defense bill could be over.

The Senate voted on Wednesday to get the defense bill over an initial hurdle, but has not yet formally started debate on it and hasn’t been able to vote on any amendments.

“Well, they just tossed out the package,” Durbin said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated earlier Thursday that Republicans had several priorities they wanted amendment votes on, including lethal support for Ukraine and proposals related to the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“I’m glad we will finally be able to have these debates and these votes. America needs a course-correction and the Senate needs to supply it,” he said.

Tags Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Defense bill Dick Durbin Jack Reed Josh Hawley Kevin Cramer Mitch McConnell Tom Carper

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