Senate GOP expected to block defense bill amid stalemate

Senate Republicans are expected to block a sweeping defense policy bill amid a stalemate on allowing votes on potential changes to the mammoth legislation.

The Senate is currently scheduled to vote to start ending debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) at 5:30 p.m. on Monday. The bill will need 60 votes, meaning the support of at least 10 GOP senators, to overcome the hurdle. 

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that he will vote against wrapping up debate because Republicans want votes on amendments to the bill. 

"The Democratic leader ... now wants to block the Senate from a real debate and real amendment process," McConnell said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

"So if the Democratic leader insists on forcing a cloture vote later today, I'll oppose cutting off these important debates prematurely when they have really just begun," McConnell added. 

Spokespeople for Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, didn't respond to questions about if he would vote against starting to wind down debate on the bill on Monday. But a GOP aide said Republicans are expected to block the defense bill from moving forward on Monday night as they push for a deal on amendment votes. 

Inhofe and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who chairs the Armed Services Committee, previously agreed to votes on a package of 18 amendments, including a conservative push to strip out language in the defense bill that requires women to register for the selective service and a bipartisan push to include a repeal of the 2002 Iraq War authorization in the defense bill.

But that package was blocked before the weeks-long Thanksgiving break by several Republican senators whose amendments were not included.

McConnell singled out some of the additional amendments that Republicans want votes on, including proposals backed by Sens. James Risch (R-Idaho) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) related to sanctions for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. 

Spokespeople for Schumer didn't respond to a question about if he would delay the Monday vote.