The National Defense Authorization Act passed a key test in a 71-29 Senate vote Wednesday, clearing the measure’s path to passage as Congress races to finish the bill before year’s end.
The annual bill that authorizes $552.1 billion in spending for national defense and $80.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, is considered critical for guiding Department of Defense priorities. It provides pay increases for military members, authorizes health care benefits, provides additional authority for a Pentagon program to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, and requires additional assessments of Iran’s global network of terrorist and criminal groups.
Wednesday’s cloture vote was a key test for the measure, which has run into Republican objections over a procedural process that did not allow for amendments this week.
Some Republicans have expressed outrage that they were denied the ability to have a full debate on amendments to the measure on the floor earlier this year. The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its bill in June, but the full Senate did not take it up until just before Thanksgiving. Democrats and Republicans were unable to work out an agreement to consider most amendments.
In order to avoid allowing the authorization bill to lapse at the end of the year, House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders worked out a compromise in a pre-conference announced last week. That agreement afforded the Senate the opportunity for only an up-or-down vote on the measure.
Lawmakers have expressed frustration that the agreement has prevented a debate on Iran-sanctions legislation, and other pet issues like an amendment from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would take the decision of whether to prosecute sexual assaults out of the chain of command.
“By denying the Senate the ability to legislate, debate, and amend the National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Appropriations Act, and additional Iran sanctions — and by refusing the Senate the ability to vote on the authorization for the use of force against Syria — the majority leader has abdicated this chamber’s constitutional role in shaping and overseeing national-security policy,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on the floor Wednesday.
Fights on those issues are expected to resurface next year.
This bill does include other reforms to combat military sexual assault by providing a victims’ counsel and removing the power of commanders to overturn sexual-assault convictions, among other reforms.
The bill also takes steps towards President Obama’s goal of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by allowing foreign transfers of detainees.
The House approved the defense bill last week on a vote of 350 to 69. After the Senate’s final passage, the bill will move to president’s desk for signature.
What We're Following See More »
If a new poll is to be believed, Hillary Clinton has a big lead in the all-important swing state of Pennsylvania. A new Suffolk University survey shows her ahead of Donald Trump, 50%-41%. In a four-way race, she maintains her nine-point lead, 46%-37%. "Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the past six presidential elections, going back to Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992. Yet it is a rust belt state that could be in play, as indicated by recent general-election polling showing a close race."
"President Barack Obama has chosen Jackson Park, a lakefront park that once hosted the world’s fair on the city’s South Side, for his $500 million presidential library, according to a person familiar with the matter."
Wednesday was the third night in a row that the Democratic convention enjoyed a ratings win over the Republican convention last week. Which might have prompted a fundraising email from Donald Trump exhorting supporters not to watch. "Unless you want to be lied to, belittled, and attacked for your beliefs, don't watch Hillary's DNC speech tonight," the email read. "Instead, help Donald Trump hold her accountable, call out her lies and fight back against her nasty attacks."
The Clintons will retain their Secret Service "code names from the last time they lived in the White House. Hillary Clinton is EVERGREEN and Bill ClintonEAGLE. Donald Trump is MOGUL, according to reports, and Melania Trump MUSE. The vice presidents get code names, too: Mike Pence is HOOSIER—a little on the nose—and his wife HUMMINGBIRD. Tim Kaine is DAREDEVIL, somewhat ambitiously. His wife's? To be determined."