McConnell blocked Democrats’ attempt to close debate on defense spending, usually a bipartisan vote.
This could push back Democrats’ timetable to get Build Back Better passed before Christmas.
Democratic lawmakers are frustrated, saying the GOP will do anything to obstruct Biden’s agenda.
Passing new defense spending was supposed to be the easy part of Congress’ holiday rush, but it’s already run into a stumbling block.
Democrats have an ambitious agenda for the upcoming month. They want to pass a resolution to avoid a government shutdown, raise the debt ceiling, and pass President Joe Biden’s sweeping climate and social-welfare package, all before Christmas. But before any of that gets done, Republicans and Democrats need to work together to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022 — a $768 billion annual measure that has been passed on a bipartisan basis every year for 60 years.
That measure ran into trouble on Monday night when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s attempt to close debate on the bill and move it closer to passage.
“This is more important than political timetables or partisan wish-lists,” McConnell said prior to the vote. “So if the Democratic leader insists on forcing a cloture vote later today, I’ll oppose cutting off these important debates prematurely when they have really just begun.”
McConnell said he was blocking the vote because GOP amendments, like sanctions over a Russian pipeline, had yet to be considered. His comments came after Schumer said during remarks that he hoped “Republican dysfunction will not be a roadblock to passing this bill and taking care of our troops and their families.”
If the NDAA doesn’t get passed soon, it will likely throw off Democrats’ plans to get measures like universal pre-K and robust climate policies to the American people before Christmas, and the idea is frustrating Democratic senators.
“You can never say there’s a bottom and they won’t go lower,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine told Politico on GOP strategy.
New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen added that GOP efforts are “about a general effort to obstruct anything that’s going on, with the hope that will reflect poorly on Joe Biden.”
The GOP obstruction, as Shaheen referenced, might sound familiar — it’s something Democrats were struggling with just last month while attempting to keep the government funded. Congress came dangerously close to failing to suspend the debt ceiling and pushing the US into default as McConnell blocked Democrats’ attempts to raise the ceiling on their own. He stepped in at the last minute to ensure the country could pay its bills for an additional two months.
However, as Insider reported, while the GOP may be working to delay Democrats’ timetable to pass Biden’s Build Back Better Framework, McConnell appears to be more cooperative with Schumer on the debt ceiling this time around. McConnell told Punchbowl News on Tuesday he recently had discussions with Schumer on ways to keep the government funded, and they’re “still talking about.”
Now, Democrats need to work with Republicans to get defense spending finalized, and while GOP obstruction may be their biggest obstacle in adhering to their Christmas deadline, they still have a lot to resolve within their own party. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has been clear he would like to see changes in Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, including cutting out paid leave, and he suggested to Politico that inflation, and the new Omicron variant, should give Congress “cause to pause” on the agenda.
He said: “I heard an awful lot over the Thanksgiving break that prices were high and people were very much upset about that and concerned about: Is inflation going to get worse?”
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