There’s increasing optimism on Capitol Hill that senators and members could unveil the final version of the annual defense authorization bill by the end of this week.
The formal NDAA conference will be held on Wednesday with the traditional “passing of the gavel.” And while there are still some outstanding issues at the leadership level, we’ve heard the final bill could be signed off on as early as Thursday.
“There are a number of things that need to be fixed,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told us. “But things are moving.”
To be sure, some thorny issues — such as abortion language, diversity initiatives and border policy — still remain outstanding. But sources briefed on the state of negotiations say progress has been made on these hot-button topics.
There aren’t expected to be any changes in the NDAA to the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing servicemembers for abortion-related travel, we’re told. This issue, of course, has been the catalyst for Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) months-long blockade of senior military promotions. The Senate could soon vote to end the blockade with GOP support.
Tuberville all but acknowledged on Monday that one of his final potential off-ramps may already be exhausted.
Tuberville wanted the NDAA conferees to be able to vote on an amendment included in the House version of the bill that would rescind the abortion policy. Tuberville said it’s becoming clear to him that there will be no such vote. This was likely from the outset, but Tuberville is effectively removing it from his list of possible off-ramps, making it more likely that a bipartisan group of senators will roll him in the coming weeks.
The DEI-related language, meanwhile, is expected to hew closer to the Senate-passed NDAA. And there are likely to be border-related provisions in the final package, we’re told.
— Max Cohen and Andrew Desiderio