Senate, House headed for showdown over defense bill

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., succeeded in his efforts this week to call a formal House-Senate conference to come to an agreement on the military defense bill also known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), his office said Thursday. Wicker’s victory, reportedly discussed behind closed doors, comes as the Senate also passed the House’s government spending patch to extend the deadlines to January and February. The conference will likely be sometime after Thanksgiving, a Wicker aide told Fox News Digital. The aide also said if the conference process hadn’t started this week, “it wouldn’t have happened this year” due to other priorities.  SENATE GREENLIGHTS MILITARY DEFENSE SPENDING BILL, PAVING WAY FOR HIGH-STAKES CLASH WITH GOP-LED HOUSE “Then the senator heard from several of his colleagues that that was something that they were not OK with it,” the aide said. Wicker, the leading Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, considered Thursday morning one of his last chances to trigger a meeting between the two chambers to finalize one package. The Senate approved its version of the annual military defense bill with bipartisan support in July in an 86-11 vote, granting authorization for $886 billion over the next year to bolster national defense right before the chamber’s five-week August recess. ONLY 4 DEMS VOTE WITH GOP TO PASS DEFENSE POLICY BILL ROLLING BACK ABORTION POLICY, ‘WOKE’ INITIATIVES Notably, in the Senate’s passage of the policy, military personnel will see a 5.2% pay increase, $9.1 billion to foster competitiveness with China, investments in advancing military drone technology and $300 million in aid to Ukraine. The Senate’s bill avoids addressing the issues of abortion and transgender services. However, it does acknowledge the concerns expressed by Republicans about what they call an excessive influence of progressive policies within the Pentagon. As such, Senate Republicans were able to get provisions in the policy that prevent mandating the inclusion of preferred pronouns in official correspondence as well as a halt on diversity quota hires. UNLIKELY GROUP OF SENATE REPUBLICANS TEAM UP ON AMENDMENT TO AUDIT UKRAINE SPENDING IN DEFENSE BILL Coming to an agreement on a package will prove to be a messy feat as the two chambers are worlds apart. Just two weeks prior to the Senate’s passage, the House approved its version of the bill, which incorporated several Republican amendments aimed at dismantling the Pentagon’s abortion policy for service members seeking procedures out of state as well as restricting transgender-affirming treatments. President Biden has previously indicated he would not sign a package filled with hard-line GOP priorities like what’s included in the House’s version.
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