Senate heads to conference on FY-18 defense policy bill

By Tony Bertuca  
October 17, 2017 at 1:22 PM

The Senate voted today to begin conference committee negotiations for the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill and named the entire Senate Armed Services Committee as conferees.

The House voted to enter conference last week.

Both chambers disagree on an array of issues, one of the most notable being the House's desire to create a new Space Corps within the Air Force.

Conferees will also have to decide a topline for authorized FY-18 defense spending. The White House has requested $603 billion for defense in FY-18, but the 2011 Budget Control Act limits defense spending to $549 billion. Meanwhile, House and Senate authorizers are seeking approximately $700 billion.

House appropriators want a similar defense boost, but created a special fund for the additional money that could be easily cut or reduced to accommodate an end-of-the year spending deal between Republicans and Democrats. Senate appropriators, however, say they will mark their bill to levels mandated by the BCA.

The contours of a compromise over spending have yet to emerge, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said last week Democrats will insist on "parity" in increases in defense and non-defense funding.

Congress has until Dec. 8 -- the expiration date for a stopgap continuing resolution -- to cut a deal or face a potential government shutdown.