Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats must muster 60 votes to move the defense policy bill forward, meaning Republicans could block the measure if they stick together in the vote.
A potential GOP obstruction to force more votes is another setback as Schumer attempts to quickly complete the defense policy bill this week and pass legislation to avoid a government shutdown at midnight on Friday. House and Senate leaders have little margin for error as they aim to send President Joe Biden a compromise defense bill before the end of the year.
McConnell criticized Schumer for delaying debate on the bill and preventing further amendment votes. But it was objections from GOP senators that failed votes on nearly 20 amendments from senators from both parties before the Thanksgiving recess.
A deal reached by Senate Armed Services President Jack Reed (DR.I.) and Republican Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma to hold roll-call votes on a series of amendments collapsed the week before Thanksgiving so that seven Republicans opposed to protest the exclusion of their proposals.
Among opponents, Senate Foreign Relations Representative Republican Jim Risch of Idaho and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called for a vote on their Nord Stream 2 sanctions proposal.
Despite bipartisan support for punitive actions against Russia, the Biden administration opposes further sanctions on the pipeline, arguing it would alienate European allies.
With votes torpedoed, Democrats put the bill on hold until after the recess and held votes to end debate and move to final adoption this week, which will be followed by negotiations with the House.
But the stalemate remained Monday night, as McConnell slammed Democrats over the issue of pipeline sanctions, noting that similar language had been adopted in the House Defense Bill that passed in September. .
“Considering the sanctions on the pipeline that supplies [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s encroachment on Europe, including Senator Risch’s provisions, which closely mirror language the House unanimously added, is certainly worth the Senate’s time, ”McConnell said.
Faced with a potential obstruction from the GOP, Schumer could postpone the vote to leave room for negotiations on the amendments. But speaking to McConnell, the New York Democrat gave no indication he would give in to the threat.
Schumer said the chamber was working “as a bipartisan [a] way as she could ”to consider the defense bill. He criticized Republicans for not agreeing to vote on a long list of amendments and for rejecting amendments proposed by their own party.
“The NDAA has been adopted by this chamber for over 60 years, and there is no good reason this year would be any different,” Schumer said.
“Unfortunately, Republicans couldn’t agree to this deal until Thanksgiving,” he said of the proposed amendment votes. “But we hope that the Republican dysfunction will not stand in the way of the passage of this bill and the care of our troops and their families.”