This week: Defense policy bill, veterans spending top agenda

With the House out for a week-long Veterans Day break, all eyes will be on the Senate as it takes a second stab at an annual defense policy bill.

Senators are expected to vote on a revised National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Tuesday after the legislation sailed through the House last week by a 370-58 margin.


President Obama vetoed the original $612 billion NDAA largely because of an extra $38 billion in war funding. Lawmakers, however, scrapped plans to try to override the veto after passing a two-year budget that increased defense and nondefense spending.

Instead, senators will vote on the new version of the bill, which includes $5 billion in cuts to match what was approved in the budget.

Among the cuts are $250 million to the Obama administration’s Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, $250 million to Army readiness, $193 million to Army National Guard readiness and $1.082 billion in fuel savings.

But it still includes restrictions on Guantanamo Bay transfers, which the administration opposes. The legislation would ban moving detainees into the United States, as well as releasing them to Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria.

While signing the bill would lock in the restrictions until the final days of the Obama administration, the president has also signed previous defense policy bills that restricted his ability to transfer detainees.

The White House has so far stopped short of saying that the president would reject the revised bill. Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg signs four-year deal with ABC to stay on 'The View' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Meghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden MORE (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Armed Services Committee, suggested separately that he didn’t believe Obama would veto the bill for a second time.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “They shouldn’t. It would be a very weak argument because I’ve asked them for a plan [to close Guantanamo] and they haven’t given me a plan.”

Veterans, military construction spending

The Senate will continue its work on a fiscal year 2016 spending bill for veterans' benefits and military construction.

The legislation overcame an initial procedural hurdle last week, with senators voting 93-0 to allow it to move forward. The move effectively ended a months-long Democratic filibuster that logjammed the Senate’s consideration of spending bills.

The vote came after Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo Build Back Better, we need a tax system where everyone pays their fair share Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda MORE (D-Nev.) suggested that he and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation We don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble MORE (R-Ky.) were close to a tentative plan for moving forward on an omnibus spending bill. Lawmakers have until mid-December to pass a government-funding bill and avoid a shutdown.

Democrats previously blocked the Department of Veterans Affairs-military construction bill last month. Sen. John CornynJohn CornynAbbott bows to Trump pressure on Texas election audit Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook Democrats up ante in risky debt ceiling fight MORE (R-Texas) suggested that it was “ironic” that they were allowing the bill to move forward ahead of Veterans Day.

"A few short days before Veterans Day, they decided to allow us to finally get on a veterans and military construction bill," he said, referring to Democrats.

McConnell said separately that with cooperation the Senate could get the legislation passed this week.

Lawmakers have already filed a handful of amendments to the legislation, including a proposal from Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTexas abortion law creates 2022 headache for GOP Heller won't say if Biden won election Ex-Sen. Dean Heller announces run for Nevada governor MORE (R-Nev.) to block senior VA executives responsible for overseeing disability compensation claims from receiving a bonus.

The Senate will be under a tight timeline to finish its work though, with lawmakers only scheduled to vote on a nomination during an abbreviated Monday session. The Senate is also expected to be out on Wednesday for Veterans Day.