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The Senate will not have full-blown floor debate on the 2013 defense authorization bill unless an agreement is reached this week on how to handle amendments, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday as Congress returned from a Thanksgiving break.
Reid said he has spoken with the Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee about how to handle amendments, but no agreement had been reached.
"Republican senators have been having disagreements among themselves on what they want to do on the defense bill," Reid said in explaining his call to to delay until at least Wednesday — and maybe later — any consideration of the $648.5 billion policy bill that includes $88.5 billion for ongoing contingency operations.
Reid said he is working with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the armed services committee chairman, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the panel's ranking Republican, on agreements for handling amendments, which involve rewriting legislative language to avoid, if possible, objections that would result in prolonged debate. Similar agreements have been used in previous years to group amendments into large packages that are passed by voice vote and with little or no discussion.
"I am willing to work with them in any way that is reasonable this late in the game," Reid said, referring to the fact that the policy bill covers the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 and is needed to prevent the expiration of some key programs on Dec. 31. Expirations include approval of bonuses and special pays for new recipients.
The House of Representatives passed its version of the defense bill on May 18, and has been waiting for the Senate to catch up so that negotiations can begin on a final compromise measure.
With time running short, plans are being made to pass a stripped down bill — minus any controversial provisions — to prevent disruption in key military programs.