All eyes were on Arizona Sen. John McCain’s key vote signaling the collapse of the Republican health care bill early Friday morning, but the longtime GOP senator also faced frustration over a delay in turning to the defense authorization bill.
Sen. Rand Paul blocked quick action on the measure, wanting to ensure debate on rolling back authorizations for the use of military force enacted early in the George W. Bush administration.
Paul objected to a consent request from his fellow Kentucky Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to begin defense authorization debate because of a desire to offer amendments to the defense policy bill, including an AUMF proposal.
“Senator Rand Paul requested two bipartisan amendments, one on ending indefinite detention and one on AUMFs. He looks forward to working with leadership and the committee to get this done soon,” a spokesman for Paul said Friday.
One of the Paul amendments would provide for a sunset of the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of force, according to a tweet from Paul’s senior strategist Doug Stafford.
Sunset of 2001/2 AUMFs
— Doug Stafford (@dougstafford) July 28, 2017
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said at a Friday news conference that he, McCain and Armed Services ranking member Jack Reed attempted to work the matter out with Paul on the floor overnight, but couldn’t.
Schumer said it would now be up to McConnell to resolve the issue.
The defense authorization had been on a list of priority items for consideration before senators depart for recess. That list also includes a slew of nominations, an FDA user fee reauthorization and legislation to meet the ongoing funding needs of the choice program for veterans health care.
Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, said he anticipated Senate action before recess on the veterans choice bill, which passed the House Friday.
“As a senior member of [the Veterans Affairs] Committee, guaranteeing Nevada’s veterans have access to the Choice Program for services the VA cannot provide — like chemotherapy or lifesaving surgeries — has always been a top priority of mine,” he said. “I expect the Senate to act next week to pass this legislation, and I’ll work to make sure our country’s heroes continue to have access to the health care services that some of them desperately need.”