After Senate Republicans on Thursday shot down a secondary amendment that would authorize an additional $18 billion in nondefense funding, Democrats responded in kind, helping to defeat a measure that would have added $18 billion to the defense authorization bill for services’ unfunded requirements—including more troops and weapons.

The failure of both amendments means that the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act will remain at a topline of $602 billion, with about $524 billion in defense base expenses and $59 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations funds.

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

The Democratic amendment—sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)—would have added $18 billion of domestic spending to SASC Chairman John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) own measure adding $18 billion of additional defense spending to the 2017 NDAA.

Last year’s bipartisan budget agreement gave defense and nondefense accounts some relief for 2016 and 2017. Any further increases to defense must be met with an equal one for domestic priorities such as Zika virus prevention, homeland security, wildfire relief and infrastructure, Democrats argued (Defense Daily, June 8).

The Reed amendment was defeated in a 43-55 vote, with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) as the only GOP lawmakers in favor of the measure.

Meanwhile, McCain’s amendment was also killed in a 56-42 vote that needed 60 votes to pass. Most Democrats voted against the bill, however a handful of minority members such as Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Angus King (I-Maine), both members of SASC, backed the extra funds.

Ten GOP members—notably Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)—voted against the measure.

McCain’s amendment would have added billions of dollars in procurement funds to the NDAA, including a Littoral Combat Ship, dozens of aircraft and additional munitions. It also would have paid for additional Army troops, as well as additional operations and maintenance activities (Defense Daily, May 26).

Before the vote, McCain gave a fevered speech, arguing that those who voted against the measure would have to reconcile themselves with a greater likelihood of casualties.  

“If you vote no, just don’t say your in favor of the military, okay?” he said.