Defense bill likely stalled in Senate until December, aides say

“We’re probably, unfortunately, looking at December,” said one aide familiar with the process.

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A senior Democratic aide said that December “is a possibility,” but added that it depended on a number of factors.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Armed Services panel, told The Hill Thursday that he had heard the Defense bill wasn’t likely to get to the floor until December.

Asked Thursday about a delay until December, Levin said it was a “vicious rumor” and that he hadn’t received anything definitive on timing yet.

Levin told reporters earlier this month that the bill would probably be “another cliffhanger” and end up “closer to the end of the session than I’d like.”

The Defense bill, which sets Pentagon policy and authorizes roughly $600 billion in Defense spending, has been moved back on the Senate calendar for a variety of reasons, including the conflict in Syria and the current fight over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.

If the Senate waits until December to take it up, it would be the fourth year in a row it has slipped to the final month of the year.

In 2010, the fight over “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” pushed it back; in 2011, it was indefinite detention for terror suspects; and last year, it was a combination of sequestration and national elections.

This year’s bill will be tackling a number of thorny topics, including sequestration, closing Guantánamo and military sexual assault.

A December vote inevitably leads to a hastily hashed out conference committee with the House to reconcile the two bills. The House passed its Defense authorization legislation in June.

The authorization bill is one of the few “must-pass” pieces of legislation remaining, and Congress has passed the measure for 51 straight years.