House panel's top Republican backs Democrats' defense bill

By Tony Bertuca / June 25, 2020 at 5:13 PM

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said today he supports the burgeoning fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill being offered by the panel's Democratic majority, increasing the legislation's chances of bipartisan passage.

Thornberry put out a statement following the release of Committee Chairman Adam Smith's (D-WA) "chairman’s mark."

"The chairman's mark is not the bill I would have written, but on the whole, it is one I agree with and can support," Thornberry said. "It is the product of the House Armed Services Committee's bipartisan process and reflects priorities raised by of all of the committee’s members."

While members of the liberal wing of the Democratic party have said they want to include more progressive measures in the final bill, including a significant defense spending cut, Smith has stated he does not want the bill to be derailed by partisan riders, especially if he determines he will be unable to persuade Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and the White House to agree to them.

Both Smith and Thornberry released a joint statement earlier this year pledging to pass an FY-21 defense authorization bill, despite challenges posed by COVID-19.

This year would mark the 60th consecutive defense authorization bill to pass Congress, provided a final bill can be agreed upon by the House and Senate in the coming months.

While Thornberry said he is pleased with some of Smith's acquisition reform provisions, the Republican may still offer some additional amendments during the committee's full mark-up scheduled for July 1, including funding limitations to encourage DOD to enforce reforms already enacted by Congress.

Thornberry said he may also offer amendments to make additional investments in Smith's Indo-Pacific Reassurance Initiative.