The Senate did not close out action on the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill in three days as had been anticipated, instead shooting for an agreement to wrap up work early next week.
As floor work continues, senators are already looking toward resolving the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Here’s a look at some of the outstanding issues:
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) had planned to submit an amendment regarding export controls on commercial satellites, but instead will let the issue be handled during negotiations between the leaders of the House and Senate armed services committees to resolve differences between the two versions. “I think it’s going to be included in the conference,” Bennet says.
The matter is a top priority for Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. Smith drafted an initial provision in the House bill that removes commercial satellite exports from International Traffic in Arms Regulations and deals with congressional notification requirements for more broadly altering the U.S. Munitions List. The Obama administration objects to the new notification requirements; it remains to be seen whether or not those remain in the bill’s final version.
The Senate did not pass an amendment by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) that sought to strike language in the bill that would cut by at least 5% the Pentagon’s civilian and contractor workforce through fiscal 2017, but the amendment failed to pass.
Cardin remains hopeful that the language will be removed during conference.
“The way the Senate has worded this, it would be a real hardship. It’s a cap,” Cardin says. “It would be a second form of sequestration.”
The White House also opposes the initial provision, but its original author is Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and therefore one of the “Big Four” final negotiators on the conference committee.
The Senate passed two amendments striking two different blocks on the Pentagon’s ability to purchase alternative fuels and help invest in the biofuel industry. Those provisions still exist in the House version of the bill, so the two chambers will have to decide whether to continue those investments or pull back.
The White House wants to continue those investments, but again, McCain was an original drafter of the provision.
An amendment to begin work on a thirdsite in the Eastern U.S. was pulled.
“My amendment would have established a study on three potential locations for an East Coast missile defense site, an environmental impact study and a plan for deployment of that site,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who intended to cosponsor the measure. Since the House has already passed a similar provision, she pulled the amendment in favor of having the conference committee be the final arbiter.
One issue that the House and Senate now agree on is that the U.S. should stop contracting with Rosoboronexport, which has been tied to selling weapons to Syria. The U.S. in July announced a contract to buy 10 Mi-17 helicopters from the Russian company for the Afghan military. The amendment, which passed unanimously in the Senate, calls for a prohibition on the use of funding to do business with Rosoboronexport, but at the same time, it allows the defense secretary to waive the rule in the cases of purchases for Afghan National Security Forces.