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U.S. Senate Again Readies Continuing Resolution Vote

Mar. 20, 2013 - 09:36AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate is poised for its second try in three days to move to a final vote on a continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the Pentagon and other agencies running through September.

Late Wednesday morning, the Senate is slated to hold three CR votes. Two are on amendments, and one is the latest attempt by the chamber’s Democratic leaders to end debate.

Senate Democratic leaders intended to finish work on the $982 billion CR, which includes a $518.1 billion 2013 Pentagon appropriations bill, on Monday. The chamber voted to end debate on the measure that evening, but a subsequent flurry of GOP objections delayed a final vote.

For instance, Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., objected Monday evening when Senate Appropriations Committee leaders blocked her amendment.

She is proposing to strip funding for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program because lawmakers believe it is too technically flawed. Ayotte’s amendments would zero the CR’s $380 million from the MEADS line and shift $205 million of those dollars to operations and maintenance accounts, which defense officials say will be hit hardest by sequestration.

Republicans and Democrats alike have been unwilling to yield on demands that their amendments receive a floor vote, lawmakers and aides say. As a result, each time Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has attempted to move to a final vote on the CR, a Republican has been there to object.

Under Senate rules, such objections delay a final vote. That prompted Reid to file another cloture motion, setting up Wednesday’s third CR vote.

“It’s all leading up to cloture vote,” Senate Appropriations Committee spokesman Matt Jorgenson said Wednesday morning.

The existing CR expires next Wednesday. The Senate’s version is different than a version already passed by the House, meaning the House would have to approve it before it goes to the president for his signature.

But there is a slight possibility the Senate will be unable to approve its CR. Senior Democrats have signaled that if that occurs, they would simply vote on the simpler House version, which contains the same Pentagon appropriations bill.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said on the floor the late-morning votes would be delayed until 2 p.m.

The hope is that the extra time will let ongoing negotiations produce an agreement on moving to a final up-or-down vote.

SAC Ranking Member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told Defense News a final vote might occur today as Senate leaders desperately want to focus floor time on a Democratic-written 2014 budget plan.

“I hope it’s today,” Shelby said in a brief interview. “But there are a lot of contingencies.”

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