Less than two weeks before the midterm elections, a handful of races that could turn the Senate majority over to the GOP remain too close to call. Two, in Louisiana and Georgia, may go into runoffs, meaning control of the Senate in the next Congress may not be decided until Dec. 6, or even Jan. 6 — after the current Congress expires.
In what one senior Republican Senate aide described as a kind of doomsday scenario — unlikely, but still a worrying possibility — this uncertainty, or an imminent transfer of control, could derail deliberations on a full slate of crucial defense legislation in the current Congress.
When Congress reconvenes on Nov. 12, it will have roughly four full weeks to pass:
— A $1 trillion-plus omnibus spending bill, including a roughly $550 billion defense appropriations bill, with nearly $60 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (or another stop-gap measure to extend the continuing resolution expiring Dec. 11)
— The National Defense Authorization Act
— The specific authorization for the Pentagon’s program to train and equip vetted Syrian rebels, also expiring Dec. 11 (or it could be folded into the NDAA)
Having pushed much of the must-pass legislation to the lame duck session after the November elections, Congress will likely fold the annual defense appropriations measure and funding for the response to Ebola and the Islamic State into a behemoth omnibus bill to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, according to several Senate aides.
Debate over a potential new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq and Syria will likely be part of the passage of the annual NDAA.
“Our response to Ebola, the train-and-equip money [for Syria], the defense appropriations bill — those conversations will likely happen as part of an omnibus spending bill in the lame duck,” a senior Democratic aide told Defense One. “The bigger questions about broader authorization … the potential consideration of an AUMF, post-elections, would happen as part of the NDAA.”
The continuing resolution passed on Sept. 18 funds the government at the previous fiscal year’s spending levels and includes an amendment authorizing the Pentagon to train and equip moderate, vetted Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State, as well as nearly $90 million to respond to the Ebola outbreak – but it expires on Dec. 11.