1 of 3 | Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., of trying to pass the National Defense Authorization Act in a few days when it deserves more time for debate. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Senate Republicans have blocked a massive annual defense bill from passing, demanding more time to debate amendments.
The Senate voted 45-51 on Monday against ending debate on the annual National Defense Authorization Act, short of the 60 votes necessary to move the usual bipartisan effort forward.
A handful of Democrats -- including Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon, as well as independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- joined their Republican colleagues in keeping debate open on the bill as they have voiced concerns over its hefty price tag, saying the money could go toward other issues.
Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to vote in favor of moving it forward.
The bill was introduced in September with a nearly $770 billion price tag to fund the military and national security programs at the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2022.
Congress has enacted the bill 60 years running but it has met pushback this time around in the Senate as Republicans accuse the Democrats of limiting votes on amendments and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., of attempting to pass the bill before the end of the year after mismanaging the schedule.
"I think Americans back home are smart enough to understand that our service members deserve more," Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate armed services committee, said on the floor Monday. "They deserve to be our priority in the Senate, and we need to show them that by providing a robust and open debate on the annual defense bill."
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused his Democratic counterpart of being soft in action on defense and said the Senate should debate an amendment to impose mandatory sanctions in connection to a controversial Russia-to-Europe pipeline called Nord Stream 2.
"Yet once again, the Democratic leader seems to want to put national security last," McConnell said. "My colleague is trying to overcorrect for poor planning by cramming a two-week bill into two or three day's time."
Schumer following the vote lambasted his Republican colleagues from the floor, calling their rejection to move the bill forward "inexplicable and outrageous."
He argued the Democrats have offered debate on 18 amendments, more than on other similar bills.
"In any other time in history, what we offered Republicans would be considered a very fair and generous compromise. But just because a few Republicans didn't get every single concession they insisted on, they're now halting the process," he said. "Despite this vote, Democrats will continue to work to make sure our troops get paid and our vital defense programs can continue."