The Florida Republican is stopping the Senate from moving forward on the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) unilaterally blocked an agreement to move forward with a must-pass defense bill on Wednesday, obstructing funding and a pay raise for the nation's military. He is insisting on adding an unrelated amendment that Democrats say could kill the entire package.
The Senate is considering the National Defense Authorization Act — the traditionally bipartisan bill passed annually to establish the funding levels and policies for the Department of Defense and all of the other agencies involved in national defense. According to Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, such a bill has been enacted "every year for the last 60 years in a row."
This year's $768 billion proposal would include pay raises for the nation's service members and civilian Pentagon staff. In a September press release, Armed Services Chair Jack Reed noted it also includes "new tools and reforms to protect the health and well-being of our servicemen and women and their families."
Despite GOP demands that the bill be passed quickly, nearly every Senate Republican voted on Monday to filibuster the legislation — demanding votes on numerous amendments to the bill.
After the Democratic majority agreed to these demands and to allow 24 separate amendment votes, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer attempted to get unanimous consent to move forward. Rubio objected, upset that the agreement did not guarantee him a vote on his proposal to enact economic sanctions on China over their treatment of Uyghurs and use of forced labor.
"Senator Rubio continues fighting to end slave labor in China and Democratic leaders keep objecting," his press team tweeted Wednesday evening. In a floor speech, he noted that the Senate had previously passed his stand-alone proposal to enact similar sanctions and that he wanted to attach it to the defense bill to force the House to act.
But due to a provision in the Constitution known as the "Origination Clause," doing so might not be permissible. Article I, Section 7 requires that "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives." By attaching Rubio's sanctions, Schumer (D-NY) noted, it would violate that requirement and thus "would automatically kill the bill," making it a "poison pill."
Rather than try to convince a majority in the House to adopt a constitutional bill to address China policy, Rubio's decision effectively holds the entire package — and, with it, support for the nation's nearly 3 million troops and civilian defense employees — hostage. A significant number of those people are based in Rubio's own state of Florida.
But Schumer noted Wednesday night that the failure to fund those service members now "all falls on the shoulders of one senator: Marco Rubio" and that his obstruction "makes no sense. No sense whatsoever. I would ask Marco Rubio to sleep on this overnight."
The Senate will resume consideration of the bill on Thursday morning.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.