Republicans stalling action on defense bill, as they push Schumer to drop China competition bill from it

“Nothing else is going to happen until that’s resolved,” Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters in the Capitol Wednesday, shortly after a procedural vote to begin debate on the defense bill was postponed so leaders could negotiate a path forward.

Inhofe is also angry about adding an unrelated provision to the $780 billion National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which has passed for the last 60 years, because it creates a bad precedent.

Schumer, a leading sponsor of USICA, defended his push to have it included in the defense bill, saying it will help address supply chain problems and increase US manufacturing of much-need semiconductor chips. He also wants to prod the House to pass USICA, something it hasn’t done because leaders there support a different approach, a rare standoff between the Democratic-controlled chambers.

“If we can pass the defense bill with USICA language included, I am hopeful that we will be able to work with the Speaker and our House colleagues to find a way to get this legislation enacted,” Schumer said on the floor this week.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune of South Dakota warned the issue maybe more complicated because he said Schumer is making changes to the parts of the USICA bill that its GOP backers fought to get in it.

“If he strips out the trade and finance package, I mean you’ll bleed Republican support in a hurry,” Thune said. “I know there are hardcore members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who will vote ‘no’ on getting on a bill if it includes somethings he’s trying to include.”

The committee’s chairman, Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who works closely with Inhofe on the NDAA and other issues, said the resolution is “ultimately going to be up to the leadership.”

Schumer’s aides would not say how the Democratic leader would try to end the stalemate or when. The Senate is scheduled to be in recess next week for Thanksgiving and Schumer has said they will take that break if they pass NDAA this week or reach an agreement to have votes on amendments and final passage of the bill shortly after the holiday.

Senators are expected to vote on other notable amendments to the NDAA, including one to remove from the bill the authorization to draft women into front-line combat roles and one to repeal the 2002 Iraq War authorization.

This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

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