The Senate is expected on Monday to pass a massive bill authorizing funds for Pentagon programs and combat operations without addressing several of the most controversial policy changes senators had hoped to attach to the bill.
Senators voted 84 to 9 Thursday to get the legislation over its last expected procedural hurdle, setting up the nearly $700 billion bill for what is likely to be a strong and bipartisan vote Monday. The measure then must be reconciled with the House's version of the defense bill before being sent to the president's desk for his signature.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has been steering the bill through the Senate, promised earlier in the week that he would permit members to raise any and all amendments they wanted to the bill.
After hours of negotiations, McCain and ranking Democrat Jack Reed (R.I.) were able to come to an agreement to include over 100 amendments to the bill, which the Senate approved during its Thursday vote. But the two sides could not strike a deal with members about how to schedule votes on amendments that would have either challenged President Trump's policies or exposed rifts between Democrats and Republicans on topics including transgender troops, North Korea sanctions and ending sequestration.
McCain expressed his regrets that he could not make good on his intention to have more senators' amendments voted upon. Though he said he and Reed would try to see whether "we can agree on another package of amendments to strengthen this legislation even further," it is unlikely that package will include amendments sure to inspire heated debate.
So far, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is the only senator whose amendment received a vote on the floor — a vote he won after threatening to protest progress on the entire defense bill. Paul proposed repealing within six months the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMF) that have underpinned combat operations against al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other extremist groups, in an effort to force Congress to debate and pass a new AUMF soon. But several proponents of a new AUMF rejected Paul's tactics, and the effort was voted down.
The Senate has not had an opportunity to vote on amendments to increase sanctions against North Korea, reject the president's announced ban on transgender troops serving openly in the military, end sequestration and preserve key Buy America standards for military procurement that the defense bill phases out.
Still, senators are expected to vote in overwhelming numbers for the defense bill, which has earned accolades for reflecting bipartisan priorities since an early draft was approved by the Armed Services Committee unanimously.