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Defense Authorization Set to Clear, But Spending Bill’s Outlook Still Cloudy

Maintaining a tradition that has lasted more than half a century, the Senate is poised to clear for President Barack Obama’s signature Friday afternoon the annual defense authorization bill.

Meanwhile, it’s not clear when the Senate will vote on the catchall government spending bill (HR 83), a $1.013 trillion package that includes about $554.2 billion in Defense spending.

“We are still whipping it and we’re going to need some Republican help to pass it,” the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, said about the spending bill.

Despite the impasse over the money measure, the Senate will shortly clear the $577.1 billion defense authorization bill (HR 3979) after months of wrangling over it. The latest snag came this week when Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., forced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to secure a cloture vote to end a filibuster by Coburn, who was upset that the sweeping defense policy bill contained public-lands provisions unrelated to national security.

The Senate plans to vote on a couple of motions by Coburn pertaining to his concerns before turning to final passage of the defense bill, which must pass with 60 votes — a target it should easily meet.

The authorization measure sets policies and endorses spending on programs at the Defense and Energy Departments and U.S. intelligence agencies.

CQ Roll Call’s Humberto Sanchez contributed.


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