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Top Armed Services Dem: Defense bill 'unlikely' before recess

Top Armed Services Dem: Defense bill 'unlikely' before recess

The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee is doubtful an annual defense policy bill will be finalized before lawmakers leave town later this month — meaning it won't come until after November’s election.

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“I think it’s getting increasingly difficult to get anything done, just in terms of the mechanics of the floor, before the recess,” Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Biden taps tech CEO, former destroyer commander to lead Navy Top general: Military justice overhaul proposed by Gillibrand 'requires some detailed study' MORE (D-R.I.) told reporters Thursday. “I just think more the procedure of getting it done, getting it finalized, getting it approved by [the] House Rules [Committee] and to the floor, it’s probably unlikely.”

The so-called “Big Four” — Reed, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFive takeaways from the Biden-Putin summit Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Arizona AG Mark Brnovich launches Senate challenge to Mark Kelly MORE (R-Ariz.), House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and House Armed Services ranking member Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Congress must stop the march toward war with China Pelosi floats Democrat-led investigation of Jan. 6 as commission alternative MORE (D-Wash.) — have been meeting over the last couple weeks to hash out differences between the two chambers’ versions of the bill.

One of the main issues is how the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would divvy up funds. The House-passed version of the bill would use $18 billion more from a war fund to pay for base budget items than the Senate-passed version.

The House’s version would mean the war fund would be dry by April, forcing the next president to request supplemental funding.

Democrats oppose the tactic, saying it could potentially leave troops deployed overseas without any money. They also want an equal increase in nondefense spending.

“I think that’s still a significant issue,” Reed said of how negotiations on funding are going.

The White House has threatened to veto the House version, in part because of the funding tactic.

Both chambers are scheduled to be on recess from October until after the election, and the Senate is expected to leave as soon as next week if it can pass a continuing resolution to fund the government past Oct. 1.

Republicans who support the House tactic hoped to finish the bill prior to the election so that they could make Democrats’ opposition and a presidential veto an issue during the campaign.

Leaving the NDAA to linger past the election could affect negotiations on the bill. If Democrats win the presidency and take back a majority of the Senate, Republicans will have weakened leverage to get the extra defense spending.