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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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."