Defense Bills May Languish
Until After Midterm Elections
Lawmakers left town for the August recess with unfin- ished business — the defense authorization and
appropriations bills for fiscal 2011 — raising questions
about whether the two chambers will complete either
measure before the midterm congressional elections.
The House and Senate return to the Capitol the
week of Sept. 13, but they plan to leave by early
October to give lawmakers ample time to campaign at
home in the weeks leading up to Election Day, Nov. 2.
The defense bills are typically considered must-pass
legislation, particularly during an election year. But
with an already crowded agenda awaiting lawmakers
this month, chances are high final passage of both bills
could simmer until later this fall.
The House moved first on the authorization bill,
which sets the parameters for agency spending,
approving the measure in May.
For its part, the Senate Armed Services Committee
passed its version of the measure in May. And Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he wants
to bring the authorization bill to the floor “as soon as
we get back in September.”
But Arizona Sen. John McCain, the top Republican
on the panel, objected to a unanimous consent agreement Aug. 5 to bring up the bill once the Senate reconvenes this month.
Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., left, and John McCain, R-Ariz.,
ask questions about the Army’s fiscal 2011 budget to
Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Army Chief of
Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. during a Senate Armed
Services Committee hearing in Washington Feb. 23. Levin
and McCain have clashed over several policy change items
included within the Senate defense authorization bill, which
was expected to be taken up for debate in September.
McCain’s objection, which could
complicate floor consideration of the
bill, stems from his opposition to
language in the bill that would repeal
the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” law
banning openly gay men and women
from serving in the military.
The language would lift the ban
after the Pentagon completes its
review of how to implement a
repeal of the 17-year-old law and
certifies that a change in policy will
not harm military readiness or unit
cohesion. But McCain and other
Republicans do not want Congress
to act until the Pentagon review is
SEAPOWER / SEPTEMBER 2010