Senate Republicans block 'must-pass' defense bill after demanding its quick passage

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The Senate GOP filibustered the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act in hopes of forcing numerous amendment votes.

Senate Republicans voted Monday night to stall action on a must-pass defense bill — after weeks of demanding its immediate passage.

Forty-five Senate Republicans joined five Democrats and one independent in voting against cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill that establishes funding levels and policies for the Department of Defense and other agencies involved in national defense. With just 45 senators voting in favor of cloture, the Democratic majority fell short of the 60 votes needed to end debate and advance the package.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who opposed cloture, said he wanted to ensure "real debate and a real amendment process."

He and his caucus hope that by stalling the bill's passage, they can force a series of votes on controversial amendments, including a proposal to overturn President Joe Biden's policies regarding an oil pipeline between Russia and Germany.

While Congress often deadlocks on most other pieces of legislation, the annual defense bill has long been an exception. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, noted in a committee press release on Sept. 22 that the bill has been enacted "every year for the last 60 years in a row.

"This bill is the most important bill we do each year, but the current crises we face make it more essential now," Inhofe said. "It's up to Congress to ensure that our troops and their families have the tools, capabilities, training and resources needed to defend our country from these very real, very serious threats."

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the committee's chair, said, "This bipartisan legislation provides our troops and Defense Department civilians with a well-deserved pay raise, as well as new tools and reforms to protect the health and well-being of our servicemen and women and their families. It prioritizes efforts to strengthen our cyber defenses, improve readiness, and accelerate the research and development of advanced technologies."

The GOP caucus is now refusing to let the bill move forward after spending weeks complaining that the Democratic majority was doing that very thing.

"It's irresponsible for @SenSchumer to leave floor consideration of the NDAA to the last minute," complained Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer on Oct. 19. "As the maj. leader, Senator Schumer has all the power to bring this bill up. Consideration of NDAA should be the Senate's top priority before breaking for the Veterans Day work period."

"For the past 60 years, Senate majorities have done the job & passed the National Defense Authorization Act, on a bipartisan vote," McConnell (R-KY) complained Nov. 2. "But this year's Democratic majority is sleepwalking toward yet another preventable problem- the Democratic Leader has left NDAA trapped in limbo."

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, tweeted, "It's time @SenSchumer stops playing political games & immediately brings the NDAA for a vote. We must support our military & hold Biden accountable for his failed Afghanistan withdrawal with my bill for a bicameral & bipartisan investigation. Our national security is at stake."

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis warned, "China poses a serious threat to our national security and each day Chuck Schumer delays the #NDAA vote, our adversary is gaining its edge," adding, "Every day that Chuck Schumer delays #NDAA is another day military families are without financial certainty."

Indiana Sen. Todd Young said, "The NDAA funds our military and other crucial national security projects. Because of the #BidenBacklog, the NDAA is delayed. Every day the NDAA is not brought to the Senate floor, Americans are less safe."

Despite these statements of urgency, each of them opposed actually moving forward with the bill when given the chance to vote for it.

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, this delay will force the Senate to spend even more time on the defense bill, imperiling passage of urgent legislation to avoid a government shutdown and to avert a catastrophic default on the national debt. It also keeps the Senate's focus on something other than enactment of Biden's popular $1.75 trillion Build Back Better jobs bill, which Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hopes to pass by the end of December.

This is but the latest example of McConnell and his caucus using obstructive tactics to try to run out the clock on Biden's legislative agenda.

In September, he openly admitted that he wanted to force a lengthy reconciliation process before the Democrats could raise the debt ceiling in order to waste time. "There is no chance the Republican conference will go out of our way to help Democrats conserve their time and energy so they can resume ramming through partisan socialism as fast as possible," he said in a floor speech.

In March, Republicans spent hours delaying the American Rescue Plan — including forcing Senate staffers to read the entire text of the bill out loud. They have also forced time-consuming debates on even noncontroversial Biden nominees.

Senate Democrats said Tuesday, "Discussions are ongoing with respect to a path forward" on the National Defense Authorization Act.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.