Senate Republicans block defense authorization bill

By Tony Bertuca / November 29, 2021 at 9:28 PM

Senate Republicans today set up a blockade against the annual defense authorization bill, arguing they have proposed amendments that Democrats have shut out of the legislative process.

A measure intended to begin ending debate on the $778 billion defense policy bill -- which needed 60 votes to pass -- went down 45-51.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was the only Republican who voted with Democrats to advance the bill. Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT) voted against the bill as well.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the GOP's position "inexplicable and outrageous."

"Just because a few Republicans didn't get every single concession they insisted on they are halting the process," he said. "Republicans just blocked legislation to support our troops, support our families, keep Americans safe. Republican dysfunction has again derailed bipartisan progress."

But Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, accused Schumer of trying to "jam" the bill through without giving adequate consideration to GOP amendments, such as proposed sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a Russian-backed natural gas pipeline Republicans say is harmful to U.S. allies in Europe.

"Let me be clear: Sen. Schumer has put us in this position today," Inhofe said. "He waited more than two months after we filed the [bill] to bring it to the floor."

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to advance the bill in July and filed it for consideration on the Senate floor in September. The House passed its version of the bill Sept. 23 and is waiting on the Senate to enter conference committee negotiations. Senate Republicans have spent weeks criticizing Schumer for not bringing the bill to the floor more quickly.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) said he attempted to broker an amendment deal with the GOP that fell through because a small number of Republicans opposed it.

"It doesn't seem to be particularly logical in my mind," he said. "A few members on the other side frustrated the entire process."

The deal, according to Schumer, would have allowed a single vote on 50 non-controversial amendments in the form of an en bloc amendment. The deal also would have allowed debate on 18 separate amendments, 11 of which, he said, were either GOP amendments or bipartisan amendments.

"At any other time in history what we offered Republicans would have been considered a very fair and generous compromise," Schumer said.

Reed said work to move the bill -- which has been signed into law for 60 consecutive years -- would continue.

"It will be done," he said. "I think Sen. Inhofe is committed to that, as I am. And we'll have to use procedures that are appropriate to get it done. . . . I think tonight we demonstrated irresponsibility."

Inhofe, meanwhile, said he continues to support the bill.

"I'm still very supportive of this bill and hope we will pass it soon," Inhofe said.