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April 17, 2014

Defense Bill Stalled as Senators Feud Over Amendments (Updated)

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Reid has been stymied in his most recent attempts to set up votes on a defense authorization bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 7:44 p.m. | The Senate is stumbling into a two-week Thanksgiving recess with hope fading for completing action on a defense authorization bill, which some senators said needed to be done this week in order to become law by year’s end.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., filed cloture to limit debate on the bill just before the Senate adjourned Wednesday evening, a rather ominous sign.

Hours earlier, walking across the second floor of the Capitol, just outside the Senate chamber, CQ Roll Call asked Reid when he would attempt to limit debate on the bill itself, thereby forcing senators to vote on the legislation and eliminating any debate of potential amendments.

“When I feel there’s no hope to get something done on the bill,” Reid said, as he kept moving to the elevator.

That time came sooner rather than later.

Reid had hoped to have votes Wednesday on measures designed to curb sexual assault in the military. But  he was blocked yet again from getting a consent agreement to call the roll. Republican James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking member on Armed Services who is helping to manage the bill, sought to amend the request, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma then blocked consent to proceed to votes after Inhofe’s request was denied.

Inhofe said later on the Senate floor that he was inclined to support Reid’s cloture motion if it was clear Republicans were unable to reduce the number of amendments that they would like to offer. Likewise, he said he would back a procedural blockade if he thought the Democrats acted unreasonably.

In theory the cloture motion would ripen on Friday, but there’s still a chance plans to move the bill forward could be put on ice until leaders can use another holiday — Christmas — to try to pressure rank and file to cede debate time.

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