As the Senate heads towards Thanksgiving recess, Republicans threaten to stop it from passing a huge defense bill. The Senate was expected to vote Wednesday on the bill to move it to the Senate floor. They can then begin debate as early as Thursday.
Unfortunately, Senate Majority leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) delayed voting after Republicans warned they could block the bill in opposition to Schumer’s decision adding an anti-China competitiveness measure to the massive defense packages.
“We’re not ready for a motion to proceed. I think he should be encouraged by the Democrats to not put the China bill in,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
Inhofe said the insertion of the competitiveness legislation was the main reason for the setback. He also gave an affirmative answer when asked whether the GOP would prevent the bill from coming up for debate.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) added that Inhofe “has voiced his objections.”
“I suspect that will be kind of where the conference is. Because they’re adding things … to the so-called four corners agreement on the defense bill and that they’re trying to put this in without consulting or working with Inhofe or others, I suspect that we would defeat the motion to proceed,” Thune said.
Schumer declared Tuesday that he would include China’s competitiveness measure into the National Defense Authorization Act. Multi-pronged GOP protests against Schumer’s inclusion in the bill of the measure are rooted in several factors.
Some Republicans oppose including the China legislation in the defense bill. It passed the Senate earlier in the year, but was blocked in the House.
According to aides, some of the frustration is due to the fact that the Republicans on the Appropriations committee claim they were not consulted about putting a bill within its jurisdiction into the defense bill. This bill authorizes but does not appropriate money.
Republican senators claim that Schumer wants to eliminate trade language from China legislation that was settled earlier this year with Sen. Mike Capo (R-Idaho). The Republicans threatened to block the China legislation in the past, but Schumer and Crapo reached an agreement on including it.
Adam Smith (D-Wash.), House Armed Services Chairman, warned that adding China legislation to NDAA could hamper the passage of the defense bill.
“It’s an important piece of legislation and if we can get it done, that’d be great. But it’s also a very large and very complicated piece of legislation with a lot of committee chairmen who are interested one way or the other,” Smith told Defense News.