The Senate passed a compound drug bill by voice vote Monday afternoon, clearing a path to debate the National Defense Authorization Act this week.
Still, some sources questioned whether work on the sweeping annual bill could be completed before the Thanksgiving recess.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the chamber would move forward with a vote on the motion to proceed to the NDAA if Republicans filibuster a judicial nominee as expected on Monday evening.
With senators eager to leave town for the holiday, Reid is operating under a tight time frame to approve the often-controversial measure. Democratic leaders expect complicated battles over a wide range of issues from challenging the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance policy, to Iran sanctions, to how to best handle sexual assaults in the military. Some have even suggested that leaders append unrelated measures to the bill, such as an increase in the minimum wage.
The administration is expected to further brief leading senators on relevant committees on the status of nuclear talks with Iran, even as more hawkish GOP senators are likely to call for a vote on stricter sanctions.
Senate Armed Services ranking member James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., in his first floor speech since the death of his son Perry, warned members to keep their amendment offerings focused on military issues. Inhofe also addressed the issue of the sequester and its impact on the armed services, another key issue that is sure to come up throughout debate of the bill.
Sources did not know if all of these issues could be tackled in the next three legislative days, but with two major holiday breaks scheduled and Reid having issued assurances that weary staffers actually will get their vacations this year, work will have to wrap relatively quickly in order to guarantee that all the end of the year odds-and-ends get tackled before Christmas.