Week ahead: Senate aims to finish defense bill

McCain said he wanted to “lock this down” to having just voice votes, a manager’s package — and still a few roll-call votes — that could be taken care of starting on Monday night.

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Despite the setbacks, the move to put the defense bill on the floor last week at all was a big step forward for Levin and McCain, who passed the authorization bill out of committee in May.

The lawmakers had been concerned they would not have time for the bill in the lame-duck session, in part due to the multitude of amendments that get filed to it every year.

Before debate began on the bill, Levin and McCain also had to reach an agreement with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) not to filibuster the motion to proceed to the bill, which he agreed to after getting a vote on an amendment limiting indefinite detention.

Despite the fits and starts, the Senate is expected to ultimately pass the $631 billion Pentagon policy bill this week, as the defense bill has passed for 50 straight years and typically enjoys broad bipartisan support.

Whenever the bill does pass the Senate, the House-Senate conference committee is expected to start quickly, congressional aides say.

Both Levin and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) are eager to complete the bill quickly, and there is general agreement between the two chambers.

There are still some issues that need to be resolved in conference committee, including the overall size of the bill, as the House bill is about $3 billion more than the Senate’s version.

There are also unresolved issues on indefinite detention laws, a potential East Coast missile defense site and social issues that are the House version of the bill.

As the defense lawmakers work on the authorization bill, defense executives are coming to Washington on Monday to talk about the “fiscal cliff” of automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to hit in January.

The CEOs of Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, RTI International Metals and TASC will be appearing at the National Press Club for a press conference on budget cuts and sequestration.

The defense industry has taken a backseat in the lame-duck talks as lawmakers focus mostly on taxes — and not the $500 billion sequestration cuts to defense.

In the run-up to the election, some defense CEOs were vocal about the threat of sequestration to the defense industry and national security, and the industry’s trade association says it will continue to lobby Congress and the administration as they negotiate solutions to the so-called fiscal cliff.