The House passed the $741 billion National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday with enough votes to overcome a threatened veto by President Trump, and the Senate was expected to follow suit in short order. But Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) delayed passage of the bill Thursday, in a move that creates the risk of a government shutdown on Saturday.
Paul told Politico that he objects to a provision in the NDAA that would limit the president’s ability to remove troops from Afghanistan. “That amendment alone is enough to make me object to it, as well as the amount of spending,” he said. But that amendment can’t be removed without forcing lawmakers to start from scratch on the overall agreement.
Paul’s filibuster is also delaying the Senate vote on the one-week government funding bill that was passed by the House on Wednesday. The Kentucky Republican has reportedly offered to allow a quick vote on the funding bill in exchange for delaying the defense bill vote to Monday, but his holding maneuver was still in effect late Thursday afternoon, raising concerns that Paul could once again force a government shutdown, however brief.
“Drama on the floor ahead of a deadline is nothing new to Paul, who exerts major leverage over the Senate by seizing on imminent deadlines and pushing his priorities,” Politico said. “Paul forced a brief shutdown in 2018 over his moves to cut spending, and using the shutdown deadline to try and get extra concessions on the defense bill is vintage Paul.”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has broken with President Trump by supporting the defense bill, said Thursday that while it could be delayed, he expects the vote to occur before the shutdown deadline late Friday. “For the information of all senators, we should expect the potential for a late night tonight and the possibility of votes tomorrow,” he said.