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Senate pushes back defense bill until after Thanksgiving as debate hits roadblock

“The Democrats have been working in good faith for several days, in fact for several months really, to pass this defense law,” Schumer lamented Thursday evening. “Members on both sides want this to happen, so these delays are unfortunate. There is no good reason to keep delaying. We have to move the process forward.”

After days of wrangling over which amendments would get votes or be included in a bipartisan management agenda, Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed (DR.I.) sought votes Thursday night on 19 amendments from the Senate. Democrats and Republicans.

But seven Republicans took turns blocking votes because their amendments were not included – some with little to do with defense policy.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (D-Alaska) called for a vote on his efforts to block the Pentagon from enforcing Biden’s vaccine mandate on defense contractors. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) want a vote on their measure to impose sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) And James Lankford ( R-Okla.) Both want to force votes on separate immigration and border wall measures. And Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Called for a vote on his measure to ban the import of products made by the forced labor of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority.

Reed, who acknowledged that some of these debates were “meritorious,” criticized opposing senators for thwarting the broader series of votes and progress on the military policy bill.

“We will send a very powerful message to the men and women of the armed forces that we do not support you” if the bill does not pass, Reed warned. “We’re too busy bickering with each other over border issues and over Nord Stream and other issues.”

Democratic and Republican leaders will have to settle the dispute after the Thanksgiving holiday. Any senator can oppose votes or speed up the process on the floor, so it is possible that no senator will be able to get votes on their amendments if the impasse is not resolved.

The defense bill moved forward in a quiet session on Friday. The Senate quickly approved a procedural motion to finally begin debate on the bill.

Schumer is also expected to bring forward a motion to halt debate on Friday, setting up final votes after Thanksgiving with or without agreeing on the amendments.

A wide range of policy proposals have been scuttled by the dusting, including amendments to cut the defense budget, restrict presidential war powers and neutralize parts of the coronavirus vaccine mandate.

The list of 19 amendments now shelved included a proposal by Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) To reverse the $ 25 billion increase in Biden’s defense budget request which was adopted by the Armed Services Committee this summer.

A bipartisan push to repeal the 2002 Iraq war authorization, offered by Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Todd Young of Indiana, is also pending. The effort is also a top priority for Schumer, who has pledged to hold a vote to curtail decades-old war powers laws this year.

Senate leaders were also prepared to give Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) A vote on his amendment to remove a provision from the Defense Bill that would require women to register for a military project. The expansion was included in the defense bill passed by the House and would almost certainly become law if it survives in the Senate.

The dispute also failed a vote on an amendment by Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) That would require troops expelled from the ranks for refusing the coronavirus vaccine to receive honorable discharges.

The setback crowns a week of frustration for supporters of the legislation. Republicans and Democrats clashed over Schumer’s push to incorporate U.S.-China competitiveness legislation into the defense bill. Procedural votes were delayed amid the dispute, before Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Agreed to negotiate Chinese law separately.

Now, time is running out for the House and Senate to craft a compromise version of the Defense Bill, which has become law every year for six decades.

For members of both parties, this is positive proof that Schumer – who has largely avoided putting big bills on the floor while the Senate waited for the House to pass the $ 1.75 trillion social spending program. Biden and Democratic dollars – should have allowed the defense debate much sooner.

House of Armed Services Speaker Adam Smith (D-Wash.) Sharply criticized Schumer for failing to act sooner. Lawmakers are now evaluating alternative methods to ensure the bill becomes law if they run out of time.

Senior Senate Armed Republican Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma lamented the stalemate Thursday night, but ultimately criticized Schumer for not taking action on the defense bill sooner.

“I was disappointed (…) that we must have wasted a lot of time,” Inhofe said of the blockade.

“The Democratic leader did not allow this to happen where we could. We had no choice,” Inhofe said. “As Republicans we had no choice, and we are united in wanting to start sooner. As a result, many Democrats and Republicans lost the opportunity to be heard and to have amendments considered.”

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