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Defense bill's new path forward would cost votes on GOP priorities

Andrew Clevenger, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — With his colleagues ready to proceed, Florida Republican Marco Rubio scuttled floor consideration of the Senate’s version of the annual defense policy bill this week, costing his own party a chance to get Democrats on the record on key priorities.

The bill’s managers had struck a deal to hold 24 amendment votes, on topics ranging from vaccine mandates to a proposed requirement that women register for the draft.

But because Rubio refused to budge on his demand for a vote on his proposal to bar importation of Chinese goods made by the slave labor of Uyghurs and others, it now appears negotiators will forge a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act and present it for votes in the House and Senate.

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he couldn’t allow a vote on Rubio’s amendment because the House Ways and Means Committee planned to protest it as a violation of the Constitution’s rule that revenue-generating measures originate in the House — never mind that the Congressional Budget Office has found the revenue insignificant.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Rubio said the House’s interpretation of generating revenue was so broad it could be applied to almost anything, fairly or not.

“They wield this blue slip thing to mean whatever they want it to mean,” he said, noting that his amendment had already passed the Senate as a standalone bill, and would pass the House too if House leaders would bring it to a vote.


But there was no indication House leaders planned to do so, and on Thursday evening, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said he expected a House vote next week on the new version of the NDAA.

With a 60-year streak of enacting the defense authorization into law on the line, leaders are eager to pass the bill by any legislative avenue necessary.

“It’s unfortunate that this misguided demand of a single Republican senator is preventing this important legislation to support our national security from moving in the Senate,” Schumer said during a floor speech on Wednesday. He pointed out that the lineup of amendment votes he’d proposed had the backing of both Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., and ranking member James M. Inhofe, R-Okla.

In addition to forcing a legislative workaround, Rubio’s intransigence has likely cost several of his GOP colleagues roll call votes on their amendments. Roll call votes, especially on high-profile issues, are not just a way of tallying whether an amendment is adopted, but can serve as an important messaging vehicle as senators’ positions are put on the record individually.


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