By Martin Matishak
House and Senate lawmakers are holding informal talks on cobbling together a joint 2015 defense policy bill in the hopes that they could approve the must-pass legislation during a lame-duck session of Congress, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said Tuesday.
Talks between members of the House and Senate Armed Services panels began because members are under the impression that the upper chamber is “not going to have a bill go to the floor,” Thornberry, who could chair the House Armed Services Committee next year, told The Hill.
“There’s informal discussions where all members can weigh in about what they like in the House bill and the Senate committee bill,” Thornberry said.
By starting talks now, he said, members and their staffs will have anywhere from a month to six weeks to “hash through” any differences and “hopefully we can be in a position to have a … final NDAA voted on in a lame duck session.”
The full House passed its version of the defense policy blueprint in May. The Senate Armed Services Committee unveiled its draft of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that same month, but it has yet to receive any floor time.
Congress has passed an NDAA for 52 consecutive years before the Dec. 31 deadline. But it almost didn’t happen last year, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) waited until days before the Christmas break to bring the bill to the floor. The move prompted Republicans to complain that there wasn’t enough time to consider their amendments.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) last week said he doubted there would be a Senate vote on the defense bill before Congress adjourns for the midterm elections.
“This year, because of the election break, we’ve obviously got more time to work on it,” Thornberry said, adding that, last year, when lawmakers had roughly 10 days to put together a bill, was “unfortunate.”
“Now we have the luxury of more time, if you will,” he said. “When we do come back for a lame duck it will be ready to go and we can have an NDAA in a not-so-rushed fashion.”