As Congress winds down for the year, there has been a lot of focus on whether or not they would be able to reach deals for both the budget and the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA.
With respect to the budget, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced that they had reached a compromise deal that will not only stave off another government shutdown, but also stops sweeping sequestration cuts from going into effect. The bill increases discretionary spending—money that funds government agencies and programs voted on each year by Congress—for two years, but lowers mandatory spending—automatic spending written into specific laws and programs—over the next decade. Almost immediately, Ryan had to defend the deal from “deficit-hawk” opponents who, according to Speaker of the House John Boehner, hadn’t even read it. A vote is expected on the bill Thursday.
The NDAA is also closer to passing, it seems, but the deal is not as rooted in compromise as the budget measure. Members of the Senate Armed Services committee, according to Stars and Stripes, “announced they would ‘blend’ the authorization act that the House passed in June with a draft that was working its way through the Senate until negotiations fell apart just before Thanksgiving.” One thing that Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the fast-tracked approval process for the bill leaves them unhappy.
Committed to passing a bill before the end of the year, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told The Washington Post, “This is not the best way to proceed, but our troops and their families and our nation’s security deserve a defense bill, and this is the only practical way to do a defense bill this year.” So while the bulk of the bill will be passed, certain measures such as changing the way the military deals with sexual assault will have to passed as a stand-alone measure. However, included in the bill is a provision which “restores flexibility” for the Obama Administration to release certain prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. It is unclear when the modified NDAA will come up for a vote.