FY2011 Defense Authorization Bill remains stalled in the Senate

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FY2011 Defense Authorization Bill remains stalled in the Senate

The Senate failed this week to gain enough votes to begin considering the FY2011 Defense Authorization Bill.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had hoped to get the 60 votes necessary to allow the Senate to take up floor amendments on the bill, but could only garner 56 votes to proceed.  Two Arkansas Democrats (Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor) voted with the Republicans to block the bill.  Republicans argued against going forward for three reasons:  1) A vote on repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy  on gays serving openly in the military should not be taken before DoD finishes a study on the impact of the repeal on defense readiness; 2) An amendment proposed by Sen. Reid to include the “American Dream Act,” which would provide a way for illegal immigrant students to obtain American citizenship, was not related to the defense bill and 3) they were not allowed the opportunity to offer additional amendments to the bill.  Sen. Reid disputed the last point, but Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who had been expected to vote to advance the bill, voted no because of the amendment restriction.  As a result of this standoff, the Senate will not take any action on the bill until after the November elections.  Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, lamented this delay because of the uncertainty of congressional action during a lame duck session.  DoD meanwhile, is still discussing with defense oversight committee staff how critical authorization issues could be addressed in other legislation.  Due to legislative time constraints, it appears that the only legislative opportunity would be a continuing resolution (CR) for FY2011 appropriations.  However, in the last few years, Congress has resisted “cluttering” CRs with other legislation, instead opting to pass a “clean” bill limited to only appropriations issues.

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