Sen. Carl Levin gestures during May hearings. Levin said Senate and House staff members will negotiate a compromise Pentagon policy bill in case the Senate fails to pass its own version. (Chip Somodevilla/ / Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — US House and Senate staffers will meet throughout August to hammer out a compromise Pentagon policy bill as a fallback plan should the latter chamber fail to pass its version.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters Tuesday that he has met with his house counterpart, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., about readying a conference report that could quickly pass both chambers late this year.
That might be necessary if the Senate, for the second consecutive year, fails to pass its own version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The defense bill, once considered a must-pass measure, is now subject to the chamber’s years-long partisan fight over process and amendments.
Levin says the goal of the House-Senate talks is “the best effort we can make at a conference report.
“That process has begun,” Levin said, adding that a pre-negotiated conference report is needed as a “fallback” plan.
Asked if staffers from the two Armed Services committees will continue to meet while lawmakers are out of town for a five-week recess that begins on Friday, Levin responded: “I assume so.”
Levin indicated that ironing out differences between a House-passed version of the NDAA and one his committee has approved shouldn’t be that difficult.
“I don’t know that there’s an unusual number of issues this year,” Levin said. “I think there’s a few … hard issues. But, numerically, I’m not sure there’s a lot of them.
“And it also may depend on if there’s a … defense appropriations bill and whether that’s going to go anywhere,” he said. “If it does, that may reflect some decisions on the part of the Senate, which would then affect what we do.” ■