Defense policy bill finished, lawmakers eye Friday release

By Tony Bertuca / November 30, 2022 at 4:21 PM

House and Senate lawmakers have finished their annual defense authorization bill, agreeing to a topline that would support roughly $858 billion in total defense spending -- which is covered by multiple bills -- for fiscal year 2023, around $45 billion more than the White House has requested, according to congressional sources.

A final version of the bill is expected to be released Friday, with the House planning a vote early next week and the Senate some time in the next two and a half weeks.

Staffers stressed the schedule remains in flux.

The massive policy bill would, among a host of other things, authorize a total of $847 billion that is aligned with an overall national defense topline of $858 billion, with the difference being accounted for by defense-related spending in other legislation that is not under the bill’s jurisdiction. President Biden, meanwhile, has requested $813 billion.

The new FY-23 topline comes from a version of the bill crafted by the Senate Armed Services Committee. A House-passed version of the bill was $8 billion less.

Thirteen GOP senators, meanwhile, have pledged to vote against the defense authorization bill unless the Pentagon backs off COVID-19 vaccine mandates, though staffers said they still anticipate the bill to pass before the end of the year and those senators alone cannot block the bill’s passage.

The final defense topline, which was first reported by Politico, is ultimately up to congressional appropriators. Lawmakers, however, remain mired in omnibus negotiations and the federal government is operating under a stopgap continuing resolution that expires Dec. 16. Congress will need to reach a spending deal or pass an extension before then to avoid a government shutdown.

Additionally, the White House is seeking $38 billion in emergency supplemental funding for Ukraine, with $21 billion for the Defense Department.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Congress in a letter this week that the Pentagon needs a full FY-23 appropriations package passed by the end of the calendar year.

“Failure to do so will result in significant harm to our people and our programs and would cause harm to our national security and our competitiveness,” Austin said.