Lawmakers eye passage of defense authorization bill in early December

By Tony Bertuca / November 16, 2022 at 11:23 AM

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) said today that lawmakers are planning to pass the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill in the first week of December.

“We're making progress,” he told CSPAN’s Washington Journal this morning.

“We've got another meeting tomorrow,” he continued. “I'm pretty sure by the end of this week we will have a bill that the House and the Senate Democrats and Republicans agree upon. The plan would be to pass it the first week of December. We're making good progress and are confident we'll get it done.”

Smith's assessment follows a statement from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), likely the incoming House Speaker, who yesterday said Republicans should hold the bill over until next year when the GOP is in the majority.

“I think we should get the [bill] right before we move it,” McCarthy said at a GOP press conference.

Staffers said holding the bill until a new Congress begins is unlikely in that it would need to be completely re-worked.

The House passed its version of the bill in July but has been waiting on the Senate, which has yet to have a final floor vote. Multiple staffers said they are preparing for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to pull the bill from the floor and proceed to conference committee with a bipartisan version agreed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member.

The Senate’s version of the bill would, among a host of other things, authorize a total of $847 billion for national defense 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. The House version would authorize about $8 billion less. President Biden, meanwhile, has requested $813 billion, or $30 billion more than what Congress enacted for FY-22.

However, Smith said it is ultimately up to congressional appropriators to agree to a final defense spending topline for FY-23. Congress is operating under a stopgap continuing resolution that expires Dec. 16 and will need to hash out a deal or an extension before then to avoid a government shutdown.