Congress

Unorthodox Senate deal clears path for Thursday NDAA vote

Democrats had threatened to filibuster the defense bill unless the Iran amendment received a vote on Friday

From left, Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, conduct a news conference in the Capitol after the Senate Policy luncheons on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. As part of a compromise on the NDAA, McConnell said Wednesday he would allow a vote on language blocking President Donald Trump from launching a war against Iran without congressional approval. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate leaders struck an unusual deal Wednesday afternoon to hold a vote on language that would block President Donald Trump from launching a war against Iran without congressional approval, paving the way for a final vote on the massive Pentagon policy measure on Thursday.

But the vote on the Iran amendment will happen on Friday, to accommodate Senate Democrats participating in presidential debates this week, a GOP aide said. If the chamber adopts the language, which has the support of at least two Republican senators, it would then be retroactively included in the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill.

[NDAA future uncertain amid amendment disputes]

Democrats had threatened to filibuster the typically bipartisan defense bill unless the Iran amendment received a vote on Friday, so the seven Democratic senators running for president could weigh in.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who opposes the Iran language, said Wednesday the amendment vote would begin in the morning and be held open for several hours.

“We should put this issue to rest before, before we break for the Fourth of July recess,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Holding up the defense authorization bill is not an acceptable outcome.”

[Yarmuth says effort to unseat McConnell could be national marquee battle next year]

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., one of the amendment’s sponsors, said he believes the amendment would have a 60-vote threshold to pass.

“It’s so important that everybody be on the record on this," said Kaine, a leading voice of the issue of congressional authorization for wars. "We could not let the NDAA go by when we were 10 minutes away from a war without having this discussion with the troops and the public,” he added, alluding to President Donald Trump’s claim that he called off a strike against Iran last week with minutes to spare.

Andrew Clevenger contributed to this report.

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