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Delayed defense bill sparks bipartisan anger at Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is taking flak from both sides of Capitol Hill — and both parties — over delays to defense policy legislation as the window narrows for lawmakers to negotiate and pass a compromise bill.

On Tuesday, the Democratic chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, and more than a dozen Senate Republicans found themselves on the same page in criticizing Schumer over the delay in advancing the National Defense Authorization Act.

Smith told reporters that he is “extraordinarily frustrated” that the Senate has not passed the defense bill in more than three months since it was approved by the Armed Services Committee. The House, meanwhile, passed its version of the bill in September.

“I do think this an unforced error on the part of Schumer,” Smith said. “He’s the guy in charge. He’s the guy who’s decided not to bring it up.

"From a process standpoint, I can’t argue with the Senate Republicans on this issue,” he added. “There is no reason that this bill has not been put on the floor in the Senate.”

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are ratcheting up pressure on Schumer and criticizing Democrats for prioritizing social spending plans over a debate on the military legislation.

Thirteen GOP senators on Tuesday morning called on Schumer to bring the upper chamber’s defense bill to the floor immediately, significantly ramping up their attacks on Senate Democrats, who they argue aren’t taking China and other national security challenges seriously as long as the bill lingers without a vote.

On top of the short timeframe to ensure the defense policy bill becomes law, Republicans also warned the lateness of the bill threatens to shut rank-and-file senators out of the process.

"I have no idea why we don’t have floor time," Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said during a press conference on the bill.

"What we need now is for the Democratic leader of the United States Senate to let this bipartisan process work now as it has now for over a half a century," added Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). "And we call on Chuck Schumer today to give us floor time. Let the 100 members of the Senate act on one of the most significant pieces of legislation that we will consider this Congress."

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