Senate Republicans blocked a procedural vote on the National Defense Authorization Act Thursday, putting funding for all the nation's military spending in legislative limbo.
The Senate voted 51-44 on a vote to invoke cloture on the bill, but needed 60 votes to clear the procedural hurdle. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., voted against cloture as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a procedural move that allows him to bring it back up for consideration.
Senate Republicans objected to moving forward with the bill, which authorizes $625 billion in defense spending, because they wanted a guarantee that additional amendments to the NDAA would be considered. So far, Reid has only tried to schedule votes on amendments related to Guantanamo and military sexual assault.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked that each side be able to offer 25 amendments, but Senate Democrats rejected that request. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services, said he'd be willing for each side to present six amendments to the NDAA, but Republicans said that wasn't enough.
With the Senate heading into a two-week long Thanksgiving recess, the NDAA would not see another vote until almost mid-December, leaving just a few weeks for the Senate and House to hammer out an agreement in conference in the bill. And one major amendment, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's, D-N.Y., plan to remove the chain of command from prosecutions of military sexual assaults, remains stalled, with the question of whether it will ever get a vote completely unanswered.
Levin said he was confident the defense spending bill would be approved before the end of the year. He said the ramifications were too significant - for troops, national security and the economy - not to pass a bill. Some Republicans wanted more amendments to be considered to the bill, so they opposed it for procedural reasons.
"We're going to work very hard over the next weeks to get to a bill that will pass," Levin told reporters.
He said the rancorous mood in the Senate, in light of the fight earlier in the day to dramatically change the role of the filibuster, did not spill over into the debate on the defense spending bill.
"It may look somehow they were related," Levin said. "But I'm confident it was not related to that. It would have been the same result either way."