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Congress Returns to Work – Behind Closed Doors

11-22-22 WR NDAA
11-22-22 WR NDAA
Washington Report

With the midterm elections mostly over, lawmakers returned to Washington, D.C., last week to begin work as a lame-duck Congress.

Topping the must-do list is passing the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

The NDAA is an annual bill authorizing funding levels for national security and defense priorities.

Appropriations bills are also on the list of lawmakers' concerns.

Congress approved a short-term continuing resolution in September to fund the government through Dec. 16.

There are 12 appropriations bills, including the defense spending plan, that must be settled for fiscal 2023.

Congress didn't complete work on fiscal 2022 appropriations until last March.

In July, the House passed its version of the NDAA, which authorized $22 billion more than President Joe Biden requested.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved a measure containing $29 billion above Biden's request in June without further action.

With the Senate staying in Democratic hands, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, N.Y., moved nominations for some executive-branch positions ahead of the NDAA on the lame-duck agenda.

Over the last decade, the Senate has passed the NDAA in November twice and December thrice, including last year.

House and Senate negotiators have been working to “pre-conference” the House-passed NDAA given the likelihood the Senate will forgo voting on amendments to its current version.

In both chambers, neither party relishes breaking a 61-year streak of passing the NDAA, but that doesn't mean the deal is done.

On Election Day, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Calif., said he might try delaying consideration of the NDAA until January when Republicans regain the chamber's majority.

McCarthy was one of 149 House Republicans who voted in favor of passing the NDAA in July.

Speaking at a Politico defense forum last week, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, warned failing to pass the NDAA would harm national security.

“You are damaging the United States military every day past October 1st that you don’t get it done, and certainly more so every day past January [1st],” he said.

“We’re going to get it done this year because that’s the right thing to do,” he added.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala, the HASC’s ranking Republican, pledged a final version of the NDDA would pass in early December.

Smith and Rogers have been in frequent discussions with their Senate counterparts, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the SASC's ranking Republican.

Inhofe, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, has a personal interest in passing the NDAA, a bill that carries his name.

The House bill includes a 4.6% pay raise for military service members and two Guard-related provisions that died in conference last year.

The first provision is an amendment that would grant the mayor of the District of Columbia authority over the D.C Guard.

The other measure is a provision offered by Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., to establish a Space National Guard.

Establishing a Space Guard as the Space Force's primary combat reserve is a NGAUS legislative priority.

Unlike last year, a bipartisan group of senators actively supports the Space Guard proposal.

By law, the pay raise will start in January even without a settled NDAA for fiscal 2023.