Battling deadline, Congress to unveil Defense bill agreement

Battling deadline, Congress to unveil Defense bill agreement
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House and Senate members will present details of a final Defense authorization bill on Monday that they hope to whip through both chambers this week.

Facing a Friday deadline, the Senate and House Armed Services committees are abandoning regular order so the measure can be signed into law for a 52nd straight year.

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The House is scheduled to complete its work for the year on Friday, giving members precious little time to finish.

The bill to be presented to both chambers will basically be offered as a take-it-or-leave it measure. 

It represents a compromise between the two committees, which worked on the measure in an informal conference. 

The Senate will not have time to consider the hundreds of amendments that were filed to the initial Senate Defense bill. 

Instead, leaders hope they can "ping-pong" the bill between the chambers in order to get it to President Obama's desk. That would allow only minor changes to the legislation.

“We’re assuming that this is a one -volley game,” House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said of the “ping-pong.” 

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinTrump and GOP wise to keep tax reform and infrastructure separate Former senator investigated man in Trump Jr. meeting for money laundering Dems abuse yet another Senate tradition to block Trump's agenda MORE (D-Mich.), ranking member Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) will hold a press conference at 4:30 p.m. Monday afternoon to announce the "comprehensive" National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) agreement and “propose a way forward to passage,” according to a committee aide.  

“Contrary to some press reports, the legislation will not be a 'slimmed down' bill, but a full NDAA,” the aide said.

Smith is not expected to make it back to Washington in time for the press conference, according to another aide.

Senators can still opt to filibuster the measure, meaning the defense leaders have no guarantee of success.

Lawmakers are rushing to pass the bill this week because it’s been signed into law for 51 straight years and authorizes many key provisions like military pay raises, as well as roughly $600 billion in Defense spending.

Smith warned there would be a number of negative consequences if the measure weren't passed this year, including disruptions to military pay, death benefits and military construction projects.

“I’d prefer the Senate to have done it in a regular order, conference committee way," he said. "But we’re down to the deadline, and if they don’t do it in this way now, that bad stuff is going to happen.”

The final details of several contentious issues on the bill have not yet been announced, but Smith told reporters that the “big four” leaders of the Armed Services panels weren’t shying away from controversial issues on the legislation, such as what do to do with the detainees at Guantánamo.

But provisions not already in one of the bills, like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) push to take sexual assault cases outside the chain of command, or a tougher Iran sanctions measure, are not likely to get into the final bill.