Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe led a group of Republican senators on Tuesday in calling on Democratic leadership in the Senate to schedule a vote on the bill Inhofe says is the most important bill Congress passes each year: the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The Senate Armed Services Committee, on which Inhofe serves as the ranking member, advanced the $740 billion 2022 NDAA with strong bipartisan support in July, but it has not yet been brought to the floor for approval by the full Senate.
The House Armed Services Committee moved its version of the NDAA in early September and the full House passed it three weeks later. A final version of the legislation can’t be crafted and voted on until the Senate approves its bill and the two versions go to conference.
“The major message we need to send is to Sen. Schumer,” Inhofe said at the start of his news conference. “I have no idea why we don’t have floor time now. — It’s to everyone’s benefit, it’s to his benefit.”
None of the senators suggested that the $740 billion NDAA is in danger of not getting done, but they said this is unusually late in the year not to at least have the House and Senate versions being reconciled in conference, and insist this reflects the low priority given defense spending by Democrats, in general.
"This has gotten dangerous that we are not able to see the NDAA come to the floor of the United States Senate," said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE). "That decision is made by one individual, and that is Sen. Schumer."
The dozen or so Republicans in attendance said while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, has been filling the agenda with low-level nominations and trying to pass climate change legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act has gone nowhere.
"Chuck Schumer needs to understand that these nominations may be important, but they’re not as important as the futures of the men and women serving in the military and our future ability to counter Chinese and other threats," said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). "He needs to bring this bill to the floor and do like we’ve done for the last 60 years, move on and show some leadership."
"You can’t make this kind of stuff up," said John Thune (R-SD). "China is testing supersonic missiles and we are here in Washington talking about things like so-called tree equity. It is just an incredible lack of responsibility."
Neither Inhofe nor any of the other senators in attendance said they’ve been given a reason why Schumer, who controls the agenda, hasn’t devoted time yet for the NDAA.
Schumer's office has not yet responded to a request for a comment on the concerns raised in Tuesday's news conference.