Senate pivots to defense bill after police reform setback

The Senate is turning its attention to a mammoth defense policy bill after a GOP policing reform bill failed to overcome a key test vote

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) teed up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) setting up an initial procedural vote as soon as Friday, unless senators agree to move it up. 

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters that the chamber would be on the defense bill “for the balance of this week and into next week.”  

The Senate is scheduled to leave Washington, D.C. for a two-week break starting July 3, leaving open the possibility that the Senate could have to finish its work on the defense legislation after it returns to Washington in mid-July. It typically takes the Senate roughly two weeks to debate and pass the NDAA. 

McConnell brought up the defense bill after Democrats blocked a GOP police reform bill from advancing. Though he used a procedural tactic that could allow him to force a second vote on police reform he has not indicated that he will try again before the July 4 recess.  

The defense bill passed out of the Armed Services Committee in a  25-2 earlier this month

The bill authorizes $636.4 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and $25.9 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy. It authorizes $69 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations account, a war fund that isn’t subject to budget caps.

The Senate’s debate likely won’t be without controversy. 

As part of the committee’s consideration of the bill, senators agreed, along a voice vote, to include language that states that within three years the Defense secretary “shall implement the plan submitted by the commission … and remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America … or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America from all assets of the Department of Defense.” 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a proposal on Wednesday, which he will offer as an amendment to the NDAA, to try to get rid of that language from the defense bill.

The White House has warned that President Trump would veto a bill that requires him to change the names of bases named for Confederate generals, and Trump separately tweeted that he did not support renaming the installations.

“The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,” he tweeted earlier this month.

Tags Donald Trump Josh Hawley Mitch McConnell National Defense Authorization Act NDAA

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