Senate GOP threatens to block defense bill   

Republicans are threatening to prevent the Senate from taking up a massive defense bill as the chamber heads toward a Thanksgiving recess.

The Senate had been expected to vote on Wednesday to advance the bill toward the Senate floor, letting them start debate as soon as Thursday. 

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) delayed the vote with Republicans warning they could block the bill amid pushback over Schumer’s decision to add an anti-China competitiveness measure to the larger defense package.

“We’re not ready for a motion to proceed,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee. “I think he should be encouraged by the Democrats to not put the China bill in.” 

Inhofe said the inclusion of the competitiveness legislation was the holdup. Asked if Republicans would block the bill from coming up for debate, Inhofe added: “Yes.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican, added that Inhofe “has voiced his objections.”

“I suspect that will be kind of where the conference is,” Thune said. “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.”

Schumer announced on Tuesday that he would include the China competitiveness measure in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 

The GOP agitation about Schumer’s inclusion of the measure in the bill is multi-pronged. 

Some Republicans are opposed to including the China legislation — which passed the Senate earlier this year but stalled in the House — in the defense bill. 

Some of the frustration, according to aides, is that Republicans on the Appropriations Committee say they weren’t consulted about putting a bill under its jurisdiction into the defense bill, which authorizes but doesn’t appropriate money. 

Republican senators also say Schumer is trying to remove trade language from the China legislation that was negotiated earlier this year with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Republicans threatened to block the China legislation earlier this year until Crapo and Schumer reached a deal on including the trade language. 

Thune noted that Republicans “fought hard” to get Crapo’s trade language into the China legislation earlier this year but “Schumer’s trying to strip it out now and that’s just not something our guys are going to support.”

“If he strips out the trade package … then he’ll start bleeding Republicans in a hurry,” Thune said. 

Crapo added that he didn’t think the fight around the trade language is “the only hang up, but it is one of the hang ups.”

Crapo added that he had spoken Schumer and did not think he personally had problems with his language on China, but was responding to potential pushback in the House. 

“Senator Schumer does not have any objections to the trade language, but I believe that there are objections in the House,” Crapo said. 

Spokespeople for Schumer didn’t respond to questions about the issue with Crapo.

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) warned that adding the China legislation into NDAA could slow down the defense bill. 

“It’s an important piece of legislation and if we can get it done, that’d be great,” Smith told Defense News. “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.” 

Tags Adam Smith China Chuck Schumer Jim Inhofe John Thune Mike Crapo NDAA

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