The Senate on Thursday passed the National Defense Authorization Act by 84-15 after a protracted debate and Republican disgruntlement over the process used to pass the measure.
By passing the measure before adjourning, the Senate ensured that critical national security initiatives will not lapse at year’s end, including combat pay, military pay increases, resources for troops in Afghanistan, and counterterrorism measures.
The House approved the same bill last week. It now moves to the president’s desk for his signature.
The bill authorizes $552.1 billion for national defense and another $80.7 billion for overseas contingency operations.
It includes some reforms to address sexual assaults, but lawmakers hope to continue that debate next year. It also takes steps toward President Obama’s goal of closing Guantanamo Bay by lifting restrictions against detainee transfers abroad.
“While the bill does not address all of the administration’s concerns, its provisions regarding foreign transfers of detainees held at the U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will provide the administration additional flexibility to transfer detainees abroad consistent with our national security interests,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney in a press release.
Republicans criticized the process, lamenting the fact that the bill considered critical to national defense languished in the Senate for six months without action — only to be finished without the allowance of an open amendment process.
The vote comes near the end of a contentious post-Thanksgiving work period colored by Republican anger over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s change in filibuster rules that effectively guts the opposition’s power to block most nominees.
As Reid has forced members to vote on nominees since the contentious rule change, Republicans in many cases have forced Democrats to run out the clock by taking up maximum debate time after procedural cloture votes.
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Despite trailing Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, Bernie Sanders wasn't going the way of Ted Cruz tonight. The Vermont senator upset Clinton in Indiana, with MSNBC calling the race at 9pm. Sanders appears poised to win by a five- or six-point spread.
And just like that, it's over. Ted Cruz will suspend his presidential campaign after losing badly to Donald Trump in Indiana tonight. "While Cruz had always hedged when asked whether he would quit if he lost Indiana; his campaign had laid a huge bet on the state." John Kasich's campaign has pledged to carry on. “From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory,” said Cruz. “Tonight, I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed."
The Republican establishment's last remaining hope—a contested convention this summer—may have just ended in Indiana, as Donald Trump won a decisive victory over Ted Cruz. Nothing Cruz seemed to have in his corner seemed to help—not a presumptive VP pick in Carly Fiorina, not a midwestern state where he's done well in the past, and not the state's legions of conservatives. Though Trump "won't secure the 1,237 delegates he needs to formally claim the nomination until June, his Indiana triumph makes it almost impossible to stop him. Following his decisive wins in New York and other East Coast states, the Indiana victory could put Trump within 200 delegates of the magic number he needs to clinch the nomination." Cruz, meanwhile, "now faces the agonizing choice of whether to remain in the race, with his attempt to force the party into a contested convention in tatters, or to bow out and cede the party nomination to his political nemesis." The Associated Press, which called the race at 7pm, predicts Trump will win at least 45 delegates.