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Coburn Might Hold Up Defense Bill Over Amendment Dispute

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said Tuesday that he might attempt to block the Senate from proceeding on a defense authorization agreement unless senators are allowed to offer amendments.

Managers of the National Defense Authorization Act are trying to push forward on a deal worked out between the House and the Senate without amendments so that an authorization could be signed into law before year’s end. Such a process, however, is not sitting well with all rank-and-file members, and particularly Coburn.

“How many years has it been since we’ve had an NDAA with no amendments? It’s never happened. Here’s half of our discretionary spending, authorization for it, why would we shut off the right to have amendments?” Coburn said. “I’m not about to give up my right to offer amendments because somebody wants to get a bill through that hasn’t been fully vetted.”

One of the top arguments from senators pushing for swift passage of the defense bill is that, without it, military personnel would not get raises, to which Coburn responded pre-emptively, “You can have a [unanimous consent agreement] come out of the Senate tomorrow on bonus for re-ups, so that’s not an excuse to force a bill through the Senate.”

An aide to Coburn confirmed that the Oklahoma Republican is considering all procedural options, including filibuster: “He’ll use every procedural tool he can to force a full and open debate on our national defense. Shutting off debate on Congress’ most important area of responsibility is ludicrous,” spokesman John Hart said in an email. Coburn’s potential objection would be news to Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., who said earlier Tuesday he had yet to hear of any.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.