Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a critical defense spending and policy bill, demanding more time to consider amendments, including one related to a Russian fuel pipeline.
The annual National Defense Authorization Act has passed the Senate for 60 consecutive years, but GOP lawmakers stood in the way of advancing the massive measure Monday, refusing to provide the 10 GOP votes needed to begin debate. Just one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, voted to get on to the measure.
In a speech ahead of the vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said lawmakers should consider an amendment, among others, to put sanctions on those involved in constructing the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Germany that will ultimately benefit Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, has excluded that amendment at the request of President Joe Biden. Schumer blocked many other GOP amendments related to national security.
“Nothing less than the safety of the American people is at stake,” McConnell said. “This is more important than political timetables or partisan wish lists.”
The move could stall Schumer’s plan to pass a slew of critical legislation by the end of the year, beginning this week with the NDAA.
Congress must also pass an extension of federal government funding and an increase in the borrowing limit. By Christmas, Schumer said, Democrats plan to take up and pass Biden’s $1.75 trillion social welfare and green energy bill.
It’s not clear how the GOP’s move to block the NDAA will affect the crowded schedule.
Schumer must now negotiate with McConnell to strike a deal on amendments that will pave the way for Republicans to vote to advance the measure, which sets spending level and policy for the military.
The NDAA vote had already been postponed after Republicans objected to considering the bill the week before Thanksgiving.
“We hope that Republican dysfunction will not be a roadblock to passing this bill and taking care of our troops and their families,” Schumer said Monday.
Schumer told reporters after the vote that he hopes Republicans will return to the negotiating table on Tuesday after the GOP’s closed-door conference meeting.
He chastised Republicans, suggesting they are making unreasonable demands.
“When we’ve had bills like this, I’ve had to tell certain members, ‘You can’t get certain amendments,’” Schumer said. “Not everyone can have every amendment they want.”