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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Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.
"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."
"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.