Overnight Defense: Senate Dems block Pentagon spending bill

THE TOPLINE: Moments after the Senate approved its annual defense policy blueprint, Democrats blocked a motion to proceed to the chamber's Pentagon spending bill.

Senators voted 50-45 to end debate on a motion to proceed to the legislation, ten votes shy of the threshold needed to move forward.

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill MORE (D-Nev.) said Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal Pelosi, Schumer say White House declined T coronavirus deal COVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance MORE (R-Ky.) knew "full well" that the minority wouldn't back the Defense Department funding bill, or any other spending bill, until lawmakers strike a budget deal.


"Instead of working with us to forge a solution that can pass both houses and be signed into law, Republicans are plowing ahead with an appropriations process that is designed to fail," Reid said.

President Obama weighed in a few hours ahead of the vote, threatening to veto the bill over an extra $38 billion boost to the Pentagon war fund.

The war-fund maneuver allowed Republicans to bypass budget caps for defense spending. Democrats want budget talks to lift the caps on non-defense spending, as well.

On the other side of the Capitol, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Bottom line Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future MORE (R-Ohio) chided Senate Democrats.

"I get that Democrats want to spend more -- they always do -- but that shouldn't get in the way of fulfilling our most serious responsibilities. Our troops come first. Save the politics for another day," he said in a video.

SENATE PASSES DEFENSE POLICY BILL:  The Senate passed an annual $612 billion defense policy bill Thursday, ignoring a veto threat from the White House. 

Senators voted 71-25 on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 2016 contenders Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Trump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary MORE (R-Texas) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) were the only Republicans to vote against the bill.

Democratic leadership had heavily criticized the bill due to the $38 billion for the Pentagon's war fund, known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which allowed Republicans used bypass federal budget caps imposed in 2011.

"There is one overarching problem that remains with this bill. The problem is that this bill is funded through the OCO accounts in a significant way," Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Overnight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE (R.I.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said ahead of the vote. 

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tried to sway Democrats to back the bill, saying that dropping the war funding would hurt the military.

"I don't like the use of OCO," he said. "[But] to get hung up on the method of funding which many will use as a rationale for opposing this bill seems to me an upside-down set of priorities, badly upside-down." 

The policy bill, which authorizes funding for a number of defense and foreign policy initiatives, heads to conference with House lawmakers.  

Thornberry and McCain expect that they'll be able to get the House-Senate conference committee report passed by the end of July.

DEM VETS URGE IRAQ RESTRAINT: Two House Democrats want their colleagues to sign a letter to President Obama urging him to resist calls to escalate U.S. military involvement in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a former Marine, and Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), an Army National Guard lieutenant colonel -- both members of the Armed Services Committee -- say the U.S. should not fight the Iraqi military's battles for them. 

"We fought in the Iraq War. We recognize the serious threat that ISIL poses to our allies in the region and support U.S. assistance to Iraq in its struggle against this deadly and determined enemy," a statement by Gallego and Takai said, using an alternative term for ISIS.  

"However, we also strongly believe that we cannot fight the Iraqi military's battles for them. That's why we strenuously oppose calls to significantly escalate the U.S. ground commitment in this conflict," they said. 

The letter has 17 signatures so far.

GRAHAM DOESN'T FAULT IRAQI TROOPS. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing MORE (R-S.C.) isn't holding a grudge against Iraqi troops who haven't joined the an American-led training program to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"I don't blame anybody for not joining us after we cut and ran on them," the 2016 presidential contender said Wednesday on CNN's "The Situation Room."

"People in Anbar province rose up against al Qaeda and Iraq with our help. The surge did work -- we pulled out. The places collapsed, and nobody trusts America anymore. And there's no substitute for American leadership." 

His remarks come a day after Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that just 7,000 Iraqi soldiers have taken part in a Pentagon plan to train and equip them to fight ISIS. Officials initially predicted that 24,000 troops would join.

Graham said that Obama pulled out troops in Iraq despite the advice of military experts, and is to blame for the country's instability.

"Everybody who knew anything about Iraq told President Obama that if you leave too soon, this is a fragile moving in the right direction state. He was applauding Iraq in 2012," said Graham.


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