WASHINGTON: Summer is done. Elections loom. Senators and representatives spent August wining and dining donors and kissing babies in pursuit of a job.
In the next few days most of Capitol Hill’s workforce will return from the summer recess and most efforts will be focused on winning reelection and ensuring the primacy of whichever tribe one favors.
I spent a few hours last week chatting with lobbyists and the few Hill staff I could reach to get some read on what is the likely course of events through Christmas. (Remember, there are those elections coming in November.) The basics: a clean Continuing Resolution is probable (meaning that the government will be funded through at least the elections and no partisan policy riders will be attached by either side); hope appears to be rising among both defense Democrats and Republicans that some fix can be found to avert sequestration, which returns in force in fiscal 2016; the National Defense Authorization Act (the defense policy bill) probably isn’t going to get done in September, even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in late July that he thinks he can get it to the floor this month.
“We’ve heard that from the Senate before,” a skeptical House Republican said of Reid’s suggestion — which is all it can be in the proud Senate, where everyone has a veto. “I think the chairman (Rep. Buck McKeon) would welcome the Senate addressing it in September and then have a conference with passage later in the fall. But he’s prepared to look at other paths to passage… like we did last year.” Those who dig through every utterance and printed page related to the NDAA will remember that the bill was rushed out through a pretty unique process last year, where the chairmen and ranking members of the two committees sat down, negotiated a compromise bill and pretty much handed it to members, saying: it’s good, please pass it. And they did.
With an election facing them, neither Democrats nor Republicans want to be blamed for failing to pass a defense policy bill for the first time in 54 years while the world seems to get hotter with each passing week, so the bill will probably pass.