The PJ Tatler

Levin, McCain: Defense Bill a Shining Example for the Rest of the Senate

The Senate may be budgetless for 1,316 days now, but the leaders of the Armed Services Committee heralded the upper chamber’s ability to pass a defense authorization bill for the 51st straight year.

One hundred and forty-five amendments later, the bill passed yesterday 98-0, the second year that it got unanimous affirmation.

It authorizes $631 billion for national defense programs, about $230 million less than the president’s budget request. Troops will see a 1.7 percent across-the-board pay increase.

The bill includes the amount requested for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund to build the capacity of the Afghan army and police with a 2014 target withdrawal date in mind.

Amendments included tougher Iran sanctions, better mental health care for troops, and Pentagon cybersecurity.

“That 60 vote threshold which has become so routine around here on amendments was not used at all during this bill,” Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in reference to the filibuster debate. “And I know that’s kind of in the weeds kind of technical procedural information for most of the American people, but in terms of getting things done around here and the way we operate, that’s a very important step that we took and hopefully will be catchy.”

“No 60-vote thresholds just by asking or just by threatening to filibuster. You want to filibuster a motion to proceed or you want to filibuster an amendment, come down here and talk,” Levin continued. “And that was the position that Senator McCain and I took and I think worked well. The body was pleased.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), appearing with Levin at a press conference, said “it’s pretty interesting that we’re able to get this bill completed in time.”

“We had two goals. One was to complete the Defense authorization bill. The other was to show our colleagues in the Senate that it’s possible for us to have an open process with lots of amendments, lots of debate, lots of ventilation of issues, some of them very important, such as the issue of detainees. Then after a reasonable period we cut off the debate and finish up. And I think we were able to do that,” he said.