Levin: Defense bill must pass this week

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich) said it was “critically important” that the Senate passes a defense authorization bill this week.

“It is critically important that this bill passes this week,” Levin said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Otherwise there is very little hope that we could get a bill back from conference and passed in both houses in time.”

The Senate is considering the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes more than $625 billion in defense spending for the Pentagon.

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Time is running out to complete work on the “must-pass” legislation — Congress has passed an NDAA bill for 51 straight years.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had said he wanted to complete work on the Defense bill before Thanksgiving even if that meant weekend sessions, but Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) insistence on getting an ObamaCare amendment is delaying Senate work.

Floor debate on the Defense authorization bill is typically a lengthy process, with hundreds of amendments offered and dozens receiving votes. If final passage gets pushed back until after the Senate’s Thanksgiving break, it gives a House and Senate conference committee little time to work out differences by the end of the year.

Some protections for victims of sexual assault were included during committee markup of NDAA, such as providing a lawyer for victims and criminalizing retaliation against victims who report assaults. 

The bill also gives an across the board 1 percent pay raise for services members and allows for the temporary transfer of Guantánamo Bay (Gitmo) detainees to the United States for trial or foreign countries.

But Reid said it was important to debate amendments on both military sexual assault and Gitmo detainees.

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