Defense spending bill caught in Capitol Hill battle

Washington DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The annual bill to fund the military is caught in a messy battle on Capitol Hill.

Republicans are demanding Democrats include more changes to this year’s $770 billion defense bill, and time is running out to strike a deal.

“Everybody is angry,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said. “Now we’re doing nothing.”

Republicans like Hawley want Democrats to consider amendments that could create penalties for Chinese human rights abuses.

“Shouldn’t be slave labor and we should be participating in it,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

They also want to do away with military vaccine mandates.

“I don’t think we should be firing guardsmen and guardswomen because they don’t want to take the vaccine,” Hawley said.

Some Republicans say they’ll block the annual bill until their demands are met. Democrats are pushing back.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., says Republicans are putting military families in jeopardy.

“They’re dragging this out, this whole thing is not about the (National Defense Authorization Act), this whole thing about a political ploy by a handful of Senators,” Duckworth said. “It’s really sad because our military men and women need this piece of legislation to pass so that they can go back to doing their jobs.”

On Thursday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., insisted issues like Chinese human rights abuses can be addressed separately.

“Democrats and Republicans have very serious concerns about what President Xi is doing,” Pelosi said.

But Hawley says that amendment should be a no brainer.

“Shameful,” Hawley said. “This should be super easy. I mean, the United States government should not be defending the global slave trade.”

Senators have just over a week to strike a deal. The plan to fund the military has passed annually for 60 years.

Duckworth says she’s optimistic a compromise is in sight.

“We’re going to get this passed,” Duckworth said.

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