The Best Hope That We Have

In a last-ditch effort to conclude the Fiscal 2014 defense policy legislation before the end of 2013, Senate and House defense authorizers reached agreement on a new bill they hope to push through the House before it adjourns on Friday and then the Senate by next week without any more debate on amendments. “We have the bill; we are ready to move forward,” Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Armed Services Committee chairman, told reporters during a briefing on Capitol Hill on Dec. 9 explaining the plan. McKeon said the new bill combines provisions from the House’s original legislation and the Senate Armed Services Committee-approved bill version that stalled on the Senate floor during debate, plus 79 amendments that the authorizers negotiated last week. “There is no way to get a defense bill passed this year, except the way that we are proposing,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), SASC chairman, at the briefing. “That is the best hope that we have,” he said. The bill authorizes $552.1 billion in national defense spending and an additional $80.7 billion for overseas contingency operations. Among its myriad passages are 36 provisions to strengthen sexual assault prevention and prosecution. (Bill summary) (Levin statement)