Levin remains hopeful on moving defense bill despite time crunch

The Senate has a little over three weeks left before the August recess. The Defense authorization bill would require several days of floor time, as it typically has dozens — if not hundreds — of amendments offered. Like last year, there's expected to be a debate over the how terrorist suspects are detained. 

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The Defense bill also would be a diversion from the politicking going on in both chambers over taxes ahead of the election, a diversion that is going to be increasingly difficult to pull off as November creeps closer.

If the bill does not get taken up before the August recess, there would likely only be a few weeks in September before Congress breaks for the election. Some defense analysts and lobbyists are starting to account for possibility that the bill will get pushed to the lame duck session after the election.

Both Levin and McKeon have said they want to avoid that, as the bill would then get pushed straight into the fiscal cliff deliberations. Plus, defense-focused lawmakers have another big issue they are trying to solve — sequestration — that’s also likely to be a key element of the lame duck session.

Once the Senate does pass the bill, there would still need to be negotiations with the House in conference committee. The House-passed bill sets defense spending at more than $3 billion above the legislation that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee in May.

Last year, the authorization bill did not pass until December. It was held up after Reid delayed it for several months over a dispute about terrorist detainees.