Last chance for the defense authorization bill
Published: December 16, 2010
WASHINGTON – Lawmakers on the House and Senate armed services committees are making one last-gasp effort to pass a defense authorization bill for fiscal 2011, introducing a slimmed-down version of the measure without the controversial items that helped scuttle it earlier this month.
The smaller bill (which still runs more than 900 pages) includes a 1.4 percent pay raise for troops starting next month and extends Tricare coverage to dependent children up to age 26, along with other key authorities outlining Pentagon spending for the fiscal year. What it doesn’t include is a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law and language allowing abortions at overseas military bases, two items that caused Republicans to block the measure in the Senate for months.
Congress has passed a defense authorization bill every year since 1952, but with only a few days left in the legislative session, lawmakers will have to act quickly to keep that streak intact.
The latest version of the authorization bill came after negotiations between Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., and outgoing HASC chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo. In a statement Thursday, Skelton called passing the measure a “moral obligation” for the Congress.
“Our brave men and women in uniform, many of whom are out on the battlefield right now, are counting on us to pass a defense authorization bill,” he said. “There are hundreds of provisions in this bill that they need and are depending on us to pass. This is a bipartisan bill that provides the essential resources our troops need to operate.”
Lawmakers are expected to wrap up their legislative session sometime next week.