US Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, left, said he is optimistic that the Senate can finish work on the Defense Department's fiscal 2014 authorization bill this week. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin says the chamber could finish work on a Pentagon policy bill this week, despite its plodding start.
The Michigan Democrat seemed unfazed by two days of debate on the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, terrorist detention center and Pentagon sexual assault policy.
On Wednesday, he said he remains “optimistic” that the Senate will approve its version of the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by week’s end.
Levin said he hopes the chamber will vote on two controversial measures that would alter how the Pentagon deals with sexual assaults later Wednesday.
“About an hour after Levin talked with reporters, GOP senators objected to Senate leaders’ efforts to move to a sexual assault vote.
Senators are working for a way to vote on those amendments.”
With the Guantanamo Bay amendments disposed of, that would open the door for a more-rapid process for clearing the remaining tens of amendments by Friday evening.
“Hopefully we can put together some manager’s packages [of amendments],” he said. “Hopefully there will be some additional opportunities, if there are disagreements, to have votes tomorrow.”
Levin called it likely that some senators will be asked by leadership and himself to withdraw their amendments so the bill can receive a final vote.
“It’s always true that you don’t get to a large number of amendments that have been filed,” he said.
Still unaddressed are amendments about issues ranging from littoral combat ships to sequestration to placing certification restrictions on plans to retire the A-10 aircraft fleet to many others.
Levin said finishing the bill this week is the lone way to ensure that a House-Senate conference committee can iron out differences between their differing versions of the NDAA in time for both chambers to pass the resulting compromise measure and send it to the president before Dec. 31.
That has happened 51 years in a row.