Republicans block defense bill over amendment dispute
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Republicans for “stopping the process” when a handful of GOP senators failed to win votes.
“For a while, Republicans said they wanted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act immediately,” Schumer said after the vote. “But a few moments ago, the Republicans just blocked legislation to support the troops, support our families, keep Americans safe. Republican dysfunction has again derailed bipartisan progress. “
Ahead of Monday’s procedural vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to oppose moving the bill forward without progress on amendments, citing calls for the GOP to vote on measures such as sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany.
“Considering the sanctions on the pipeline that supplies [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s encroachment on Europe, including the senator’s dispositions [Jim] Risch, that very close language that the House unanimously added is certainly worth the Senate’s time, ”McConnell said.
All Republicans except Maine Senator Susan Collins voted to obstruct the measure. A handful of Democrats opposed moving the legislation forward, while Schumer voted no to bring a procedural motion to reconsider the vote at a later date.
The failed vote means senators will have to settle their dispute to move the defense bill forward, although it is not immediately clear what that compromise might be. It will also consume ground time for a week in which Congress will also have to erase another government funding fix to avoid a midnight Friday shutdown.
McConnell criticized Schumer in the room for delaying debate on the bill for months after it was approved by the Armed Services Committee and for deciding to interrupt debate without further amendment votes. But it was the objections of GOP senators that failed votes on nearly 20 amendments from senators from both parties before the Thanksgiving recess.
A deal by Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed (DR.I.) and Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe to hold roll-call votes on a series of amendments collapsed the week before Thanksgiving so that seven Republicans opposed to protest the exclusion of their proposals.
Among opponents, Risch, the Senate’s top Foreign Relations Republican, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called for a vote on their Nord Stream 2 sanctions proposal.
Despite bipartisan support for punitive actions against Russia, the Biden administration opposes further sanctions on the pipeline, arguing it would alienate European allies.
With votes torpedoed, Democrats put the bill on hold until after the recess and held votes to end debate and move to final adoption this week, which will be followed by negotiations with the House.
But the stalemate remained Monday night, as McConnell slammed Democrats over the issue of pipeline sanctions, noting that similar language had been adopted in the House Defense Bill that was passed in September.
In the Senate, Reed lamented the stalemate, noting the bipartisan process that produced the bill and saying the Senate “has been irresponsible” in delaying the bill, arguing that the blockages were “not at the heart of the purpose “of the bill.
“It will be done.… And we will have to use proper procedures to do it,” Reed said. “But we just missed an opportunity to send a clear message that we support this legislation, we support our troops, we will pass. at the final pass. “
As time is running out, Risch, who this month opposed in order to force a vote on his pipeline sanctions proposal, openly questioned the way forward.
“I’m just amazed to know where we are at the dawn of December. I don’t know how it’s done, ”Risch said. “What is the way forward? I do not know. I really don’t. “
Andrew Desiderio contributed to this report.