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Levin: 'Unthinkable' we won’t pass defense bill

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden officials brace for worst despite vaccine data Michigan GOP unveils dozens of election overhaul bills after 2020 loss How President Biden can hit a home run MORE (D-Mich.) is optimistic lawmakers will pass a joint defense policy bill by year’s end.

“It’d be unthinkable to me that we not pass a bill,” the retiring chairman told The Hill.

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Levin conceded “there’s always a danger” that differences between negotiators could scuttle a compromise bill. But he added, “It’d be a real tragedy, I think, for our troops, and it’d be irresponsible to let that happen.”

The leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services panels are hammering out the fiscal 2015 policy bill in the lame-duck session.

Talks are hung up on Defense Department proposals that raise out-of-pocket fees for Tricare, the health plan for military families, and make service members pony up more money for their housing. The House junked those ideas in the bill it approved earlier this year, but the Senate draft includes them.

Levin said there are still “a few issues not resolved as of this time” but declined to elaborate.

“We’re getting closer if only because we’re getting closer to the end of the week,” he joked.

Levin said it was still his hope that a finalized measure could be unveiled and passed by both chambers during the first week of December.