Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has a message for his GOP colleagues: The NDAA is not a vehicle for grandstanding. He is urging members of his own party to limit their amendments to the bill — and to not use it as an excuse to try to rein in the Obama administration’s foreign policy. He wants the measure to be taken up by the Senate during the busy lame-duck session, and he’s well aware Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in no mood for yet another lengthy floor fight over legislation not directly related to the fiscal cliff. MEANWHILE, SASC Chairman Carl Levin said his staff is ready to bring the bill to the floor at a moment’s notice. Levin also opened the door to bypassing his own chamber, saying that as a last resort the House and Senate Armed Services committees could hammer out their differences before any version of the bill has been approved by the full Senate. He said he would only consider that option if it appeared the bill wouldn’t be taken up until the final days of the lame-duck session. “If it came up at a point when we didn’t have time for a conference at all,” he said, “at that time, we’d have no choice but to offer a substitute bill that’s been negotiated with the House.” But he made clear: “That’s a desperate way to legislate.” DEFENSE SPENDING/DIFFERENCES In May, the House approved a $643 billion defense authorization act. The same month, the SASC passed its own version of the bill, authorizing $639 billion in defense spending for the current fiscal year, according to the Congressional Research Service. The bills include a number of potentially contentious provisions. The House bill, for instance, would prohibit gay marriages on military bases, and the Senate bill would allow the military to provide for abortions in cases of rape and incest. Both bills would restrict the Pentagon’s ability to purchase alternative fuels — a provision expected to draw considerable attention on the Senate floor. FIVE DECADE TRADITION Congress has approved a defense authorization bill every single year for the past five decades. Levin and McCain — along with House counterparts, Reps. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Adam Smith (D-WA) — don’t want to become the first Armed Services Committee leaders in a half-century to fail at the task.
30 Nov 2012