Week ahead: Senate to take up defense policy bill

Week ahead: Senate to take up defense policy bill
© Greg Nash

After a series of delays, the Senate will take up the annual defense policy bill in the coming week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees McConnell hits back at 'ridiculous' Chinaperson remark GOP senator: 'We were there' on immigration before talks got derailed MORE (R-Ky.) teed up a procedural vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Monday evening.

The bill, though typically passed easily with bipartisan support, still usually takes up days of floor time, so passage should come toward the end of the week.

The bill would authorize $640 billion for the base defense budget and $60 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

Congress got off to a late start on this year's bill as the administration's budget request did not come until May. The House passed its version of the bill in July.

After the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the bill in late June, the full Senate was expected to take it up before the August recess.

But Armed Services Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees GOP advances proposal to change Senate rules Julian Castro predicts Arizona will 'go blue' for Senate, presidential election MORE (R-Ariz.) was then diagnosed with brain cancer. Senators tried to bring it to the floor in late July before McCain left for chemotherapy, but Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulPompeo set to be confirmed on Thursday GOP anxiety grows over Trump’s Iran decision Overnight Defense: VA nominee on the ropes | White House signals it will fight for pick | Trump talks Syria with Macron | McConnell tees up Pompeo vote MORE (R-Ky.) blocked that over efforts to get a vote on an amendment.

When Congress returned this week -- McCain included -- the focus was on Hurricane Harvey relief, pushing the NDAA back again.

Now, Congress has cleared its calendar by passing a bill that provides Harvey relief, raises the debt ceiling and funds the government for three months with a continuing resolution (CR).

The CR, which included no changes for defense spending, upset defense hawks. Several, including McCain and his House counterpart Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), voted against the package despite the inclusion of Harvey aid. The military has long warned that continuing resolutions are detrimental to readiness.

But with the budget fight now punted to December, Congress will turn its attention to other issues.

It's a busy week for hearings on defense and foreign policy related matters.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will meet to address the nominations for under secretary of State for management, ambassador to Afghanistan, ambassador to Bahrain, and U.S. director of the African Development Bank at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. http://bit.ly/2xUFNSf

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hear from administration officials on options to pressure North Korea at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. http://bit.ly/2xTXfq4

A House Veterans Affairs subpanel will hold a hearing on VA mail management at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Cannon House Office Building, room 334. http://bit.ly/2eTq2Xi

A House Armed Services subcommittee will hear from military officials and outside experts on securing the peace after the fall of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Rayburn 2212. http://bit.ly/2xRGYkI

A House Foreign Affairs subpanel will hear from government officials on the fiscal 2018 budget request for Afghanistan and Pakistan at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2172. http://bit.ly/2wO2vOB

A House Veterans Affairs subpanel will address a number of bills and the draft bill "Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act of 2017" at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Cannon 334. http://bit.ly/2eTenrA

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hear from outside experts on the influence of state and criminal actors in Venezuela at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2200. http://bit.ly/2wOfOxq

Another House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hear from outside experts on the future of democracy and governance in Liberia at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2172. http://bit.ly/2jaItId

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear from State and Treasury Department officials on U.S. policy options to support democracy in Venezuela at 10 a.m. Thursday at Dirksen 419. http://bit.ly/2gRncmj

 

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