Yesterday, the Senate voted 93-7 to approve the defense bill. Senate and House conferees will meet this month in conference to reconcile differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.
The bill contains $527 billion for the basic Pentagon budget, $117 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $18 billion for Department of Energy, for a total of about $662 billion. The total authorization is $27 billion less than the President’s request and $43 billion less than enacted in Fiscal Year 2011.
Prior to passage yesterday, the Senate adopted by unanimous consent a package of 11 “non-controversial” amendments. It also adopted other amendments by voice vote. The Senate rejected two amendments offered by Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) to alter the controversial provisions on detainees in the bill, but later approved a compromise amendment offered by Sen. Feinstein by vote of 99-1 that would leave it to the Supreme Court to make the final decision on the constitutionality of holding American citizens in military custody. It is unclear if this compromise language will be enough to prevent the White House from vetoing the final version of the bill, as it threatened to do if the bill’s original provision on detainees was not removed.
The Senate also unanimously approved an amendment offered by Sens. Kirk (R-IL) and Menendez (D-NJ) that would call for sanctions on the Iran Central Bank. Dozens of other amendments were either not voted on or withdrawn. Prior to passage of the bill, Sen. Levin (D-MI) indicated that he plans to offer as separate legislation a package of 71 pending amendments to the bill that were objected to by Sen. Cornyn (R-TX).
In all, there were 382 amendments filed to the bill, but many were minor, many were non-germane and many faded away.
On the nuclear side, most of the amendments on the triad and the nuclear weapons complex we’ve been highlighting were not adopted and melted away. The Senate adopted three Republican amendments on nuclear weapons and missile defense calling for reports. The amendments don’t do anything other than require reports.
As the two sides prepare for conference, they will have to reconcile many differences on nuclear weapons and missile defense. Recall that the House version of the bill contains many egregious amendments on nuclear policy. The Senate version is devoid of such provisions.
What’s next up on the Senate floor? Congressional Quarterly reported last night that as the House and Senate work to address the impending expiration of the current CR in mid-December, the Senate could turn back to the Energy and Water bill next week. I’ve also been told that the House and Senate have already begun to conference this bill. Stay tuned.