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House Armed Services leaders pledge to pass defense bill 'this year'

House Armed Services leaders pledge to pass defense bill 'this year'
© Greg Nash

The bipartisan leaders of the House Armed Services Committee vowed Tuesday to pass the annual defense policy bill this year even as the coronavirus pandemic keeps congressional schedules in limbo.

In a joint statement Tuesday, Armed Services Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithGovernors urge negotiators to include top priorities in final defense policy bill Bottom line A long overdue discussion on Pentagon spending MORE (D-Wash.) and committee ranking member Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryGovernors urge negotiators to include top priorities in final defense policy bill Overnight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales Chamber of Commerce endorses former White House physician Ronny Jackson for Congress MORE (R-Texas) pledged that "this year, Congress will pass the 60th National Defense Authorization Act" (NDAA).

“This milestone has been made possible by decades of bipartisanship, regular order and transparency,” they said.

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Still, the pair acknowledged the pandemic “will certainly affect how the committee marks up the FY21 NDAA and how the House considers it on the floor.”

“We are discussing those details and consulting with the leadership of both parties,” they said. “At the same time, we remain committed to the principles that have guided the bill in the past — regular order through the committee, transparency and bipartisanship.”

Smith and Thornberry’s statement came hours after House Democratic leaders announced the chamber would not return to session Monday as previously planned.

Citing discussions with the Capitol physician, Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHoyer lays out ambitious Democratic agenda for 2021, with health care at top Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief MORE (D-Md.) said leadership will instead call members back to Washington, D.C., when the next round of coronavirus relief legislation is ready for a vote.

The House Armed Services Committee had initially planned to mark up the NDAA at the end of April, but late last month pushed back the markup amid the pandemic.

Still, Smith and Thornberry have told members they hoped to have a product ready for consideration by May 1 so the committee can mark up the bill as soon as the House reconvenes.

The NDAA is considered a must-pass bill, dictating matters as routine as how many planes and ships the military can buy to as sweeping as creating a new military service in the Space Force last year.