WASHINGTON — The US House likely will take up 2014 Pentagon appropriations next week, dashing defense-sector hopes that the legislation would be passed this week, says a congressional source.
“Looks like probably next week,” a senior House aide told Defense News Wednesday afternoon.
The latest House schedule released by the office of Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., lists two other bills as slated for floor action ahead of the defense appropriations bill.
It appeared doubtful Wednesday afternoon that the lower chamber would move through debate and amendments on those bills fast enough to get to the Pentagon spending measure before adjourning for the week.
The Cantor schedule, as it has all week, still lists the defense legislation under the heading of “possible consideration” this week.
House Appropriations Committee leaders, however, “haven’t been told for sure,” the House aide says about action on the Pentagon bill likely slipping to next week.
The prediction about floor action on the defense spending bill came as the House’s powerful Rules Committee was expected to approve a rule for it limiting the number and range of amendments.
On Monday, the Rules Committee released a letter from Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, to all House members indicating the panel this week could “consider a rule that may limit the amendment process for H.R. 2397, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014.”
“While this is not the traditional process for this bill, there are a number of sensitive and ongoing issues related to national security that are more appropriately handled through an orderly amendment process ensuring timely consideration of this important measure,” states the “dear colleague” letter.
Sessions told members, “House Republicans remain committed to a process that allows the House and its members to debate the important issues of the day.”
The Pentagon spending bill typically attracts hundreds of amendments and can take the better part of a legislative week (Tuesday-Thursday) to complete on the lower chamber floor.
An influx of amendments, or debate over controversial subjects such as moves to restrict the NSA surveillance programs made public by former Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden, over US military aid to Egypt, or the White House’s ability to intervene in Syria could bring the chamber to a crawl.
What’s more, such a scene also would threaten to further raise partisan tensions that have at times boiled over in public — as happened last week when Democrats skewered Republicans for removing food stamp funding from the GOP’s farm bill.
“I believe that this process will allow us to meet the needs of our men and women in uniform and the people we represent,” Sessions told members.
(The Hill newspaper first reported the GOP’s plan for the revised amendment process.)