The leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees remain optimistic they can reach a compromise on a final version of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill by the end of the month despite a number of unresolved issues, including the House’s reliance on the overseas contingency operations account to augment the base budget.
The “Big Four” — Armed Services chairmen Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and the committees’ ranking members Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) — met behind closed doors Thursday for the first of what is expected to be several meetings needed to strike a conference agreement.
After the meeting, McCain voiced hope a deal could be struck before the Senate recesses ahead of the November elections.
“We know that we’re going to likely be out of here at the end of September. That’s what everybody is saying, so time is certainly important,” McCain said, reported Defense News.
Passing a final version of the annual policy bill before voters go to the polls could benefit a handful of Republican lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services committees.
More than a dozen provisions in the measure would benefit Arizona, a factor that could increase McCain’s willingness to compromise on language in the bill, including reforms to the Pentagon bureaucracy, reports CQ Roll Call. McCain is in a competitive race with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) to retain his seat.
Similarly, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), chair of the Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, has said she is responsible for more than 40 provisions in the legislation “that are important to our service members, New Hampshire and our national security.” One of those provisions would bar DOD from launching a new round of base closures.
Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), chairman of the Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, would like to tout his effort to include a 2.1 percent increase in service members’ pay as he competes for the seat being vacated by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. The Obama administration requested only a 1.6 percent pay raise.