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Reid: Senate may take up defense bill soon

Nov. 14, 2012 - 07:02PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 14, 2012 - 07:02PM  |  
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The Senate will try to take up the $630.8 billion defense authorization bill after Thanksgiving but there is no guarantee the measure will pass.

"This is a bill we should get done," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday "It is something we have to do now."

The annual policy bill, passed for the last 60 consecutive years, is needed to start, stop or significantly modify programs, including weapons, training, construction and compensation. Among the many reasons why the bill is needed is that authority for military bonuses and special pays expires at the end of December, setting the stage for turmoil in recruiting and retention if a deal to pass the bill isn't struck.

The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in May, and has been waiting for the Senate to catch up so negotiations can begin to work out a final, compromise measure.

Senate consideration of the bill has been delayed because of one big problem: the massive number of amendments the bill can attract. The measure, one of the few policy bills passed by Congress each year, is a magnet for all kinds of amendments that often have nothing to do with defense.

Last year, for example, more than 300 amendments were introduced when the Senate took up the bill and hundreds were abandoned at the last-minute because of a dispute over how to handle the issues that were not going to get a full debate.

Reid said Wednesday that an additional problem is Republican obstructionism that has made it difficult to take up any significant legislation. To overcome the threat of filibusters, the Senate needs to get a minimum of 60 votes to limit debate. On Wednesday, before Reid announced his intentions to consider the defense bill, the Senate failed on a 51-47 vote to overcome a filibuster threat on a cybersecurity bill, something Reid said killed that measure for the rest of the year.

On Wednesday, Reid said that the defense bill will be taken up only if there is no 60-vote threshold required to start debate. Earlier this year, Reid also said he wanted to dedicate no more than three or four days on the Senate floor to consideration of the bill, a time limit that would require some of the hundreds of expected amendments to be bundled into packages and passed by voice vote, with little or no debate.

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