Lawmakers expect to finish defense policy bill negotiations this week

Lawmakers expect to finish defense policy bill negotiations this week
© Anna Moneymaker

Lawmakers are expecting to finish negotiations on the annual defense bill this week, the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees said Tuesday.

“That is our plan, and I believe we will meet that expectation,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall House Armed Services chairman exploring options to stop Trump from taking .2B in DOD funds for wall Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (D-Wash.) told reporters when asked if negotiators will finish this week. “Overall, I am cautiously optimistic we will be able to finish this week.”

Smith added that “we won’t have a signed conference report” this week because “it takes a while to print this stuff up,” but that he expects a deal in principle.

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Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenators take oath for impeachment trial Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers Senators see off-ramp from Iran tensions after Trump remarks MORE (R-Okla.) separately told reporters that “we want to get the bill this week.”

“We’re finally to the point where it’s going to be over this week,” Inhofe said during a break in a meeting with Smith, Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedOvernight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change MORE (D-R.I.) and House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryRepublicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Democrats 'utterly unpersuaded' by evidence behind Soleimani strike MORE (R-Texas.)

In addition to Smith and Inhofe, Reed told reporters earlier Tuesday that they are working to “close down” the bill “this week.”

The upbeat predictions for an end to House-Senate negotiations on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) come after weeks of partisan bickering over the bill.

Lawmakers have struggled to reach a compromise over issues related to President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE’s border wall.

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Trump pulled about $6.1 billion from Pentagon funding to build the wall. Furious House Democrats responded by including provisions in their NDAA to ban the use of Pentagon funds on the wall and limit the Pentagon’s ability to transfer money between accounts.

The Senate’s version does not include those restrictions and would backfill $3.6 billion in military construction funding that was taken for the wall.

Recent weeks have also seen finger-pointing over whether the impeachment inquiry is crowding out the bill.

And there have been difficulties reaching agreements on issues related to Trump’s "Space Force," reversing Trump’s ban on transgender troops in the military and restricting Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran.

Neither Inhofe nor Smith would discuss details of how they are zeroing in on resolving differences in their versions of the bill.

Inhofe said only that “there are some varieties that we’re looking at.”

On the wall, Smith said “a big chunk of it has moved to the leadership.” 

“I believe all of us negotiating understand now what our leadership wants,” Smith said, “and if we resolve the issue, leadership will support how we resolved it at this point."