Senate moves to Defense bill, sort of

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
The Senate took a babystep toward considering the defense authorization bill on Wednesday, but key lawmakers are aiming for the real work on the bill to begin after Thanksgiving.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made the motion to proceed -- asking for members to consent to bring up the legislation -- on Wednesday afternoon. Members have so far given speeches on topics largely unrelated to the legislation. The bill provides $525.8 billion to fund the Pentagon’s general operations and $88.5 billion for the “overseas contingency operations” account that funds the war in Afghanistan.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., is hopeful that Republicans will allow the sweeping legislation that authorizes funding for the Defense Department next year to be called up.

“I hope -- maybe I’m too optimistic -- that at least on the defense bill we wouldn’t see the threat of the filibuster defeating the motion to proceed to Defense,” Levin told reporters.

Levin said he is aiming to reach agreement this week on a limited number of amendments for members to debate after Thanksgiving. “I’m hopeful that before this week ends, that we’ll be able to get an agreement on proceeding, and that we could make our opening statements and be around maybe Friday morning to receive amendments that we could clear,” Levin said. “There couldn’t be a vote, probably, but we could deal with cleared amendments.”

The House has already passed its version of the defense bill. If the Senate bill is delayed until December, Levin said the senators would probably be forced to work with the House on a bill that could pass both chambers. That course would be undesirable, he added, because the truncated process would not give every senator a chance to weigh in.
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