House to consider Defense bill next week

The House will consider the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act next week, setting up potential debates over military sexual assault, base closures and immigration.

The House Armed Services Committee approved the legislation, which rejects multiple Defense Department proposals, earlier this month on a 61-0 vote after a marathon markup that ran after midnight.

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One provision in the measure would preserve the Air Force's fleet of A-10 fighter jets. Members of the House Armed Services Committee voted to maintain the planes at a cost of $635 million despite a proposal from Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) to retire the A-10s.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) also offered an amendment during the committee markup to prevent military commanders from making decisions about sexual assault cases within their chain of command, but it was rejected 28-34. A similar proposal may resurface when the legislation hits the House floor, however.

The legislation bucks the Pentagon's policy prescriptions on several fronts, including a ban on a new round of base closures and the Army's plan to transfer the National Guard's Apache attack helicopters to the active-duty side.

Defense Department officials have repeatedly said that base closures are needed in order to reduce excess infrastructure, but members of Congress are resistant to the idea due to fears that bases in their districts could be closed. 

Immigration may enter the debate but not actually come up for a vote.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) has offered a measure, the Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training (ENLIST) Act, that would grant green cards to young illegal immigrants who serve in the military. But McKeon has resisted considering the idea as part of the defense authorization on the grounds that it is not the right jurisdiction.

Heritage Action said this week that it would urge members to vote against such a proposal and include it on its legislative scorecard. The conservative group also warned that it would negatively rate votes for the entire defense authorization bill if the ENLIST Act is included.

Lawmakers must submit amendments to the House Rules Committee by Monday morning to be considered. Not all amendments will be made in order, but the House typically considers close to 100 amendments to the annual legislation, which this year runs 170 pages

Kristina Wong and Martin Matishak contributed.