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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"Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are reviving calls to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol following the violence at a white nationalist rally in Virginia." Rep. Cedric Richmond, the group's chair, told ABC News that "we will never solve America's race problem if we continue to honor traitors who fought against the United States." And Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson said, “Confederate memorabilia have no place in this country and especially not in the United States Capitol." But a CBC spokesperson said no formal legislative effort is afoot.