Levin said the defense authorization bill will have only a weeklong debate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sex assault in the military, spying on U.S. citizens, Iran’s nuclear program and even the minimum wage may all try to hitch a ride on the Senate’s defense authorization bill, and they may only have a week to do it.
The bill, due for consideration in the coming weeks, is often one of the last legislative vehicles of the year for amendments, and it traditionally creates a political minefield for senators, both on issues related to the military and not. And the 2014 authorization is no exception.
Aides tracking the bill suggest that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could hold off on bringing the legislation to the floor until the week before the Thanksgiving break, using the holiday as a pressure point to force senators to wrap up work on the bill swiftly or risk not being able to leave Washington, D.C. on schedule.
“We have to be able to finish the bill in a week,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said. “There sure ought to be, because everybody’s for the same goal. We have about 25 provisions in our bill already. There [are] a number of new ones which we’re working on, additional ones.
“There’s so much common ground that we ought to be able to … put together something which reflects the common ground,” Levin, the manager of the bill, continued.
The problem, of course, is that those hot-button issues that are sure to draw attention both inside the Beltway and nationally: how to properly handle the National Security Agency’s controversial domestic surveillance program; sexual assault in the military; Iran sanctions; whether to finally close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; Republicans’ focus on the terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya; and even whether Congress should raise the minimum wage for American workers.
Levin said it would be impossible to deal with all of those issues in the time allotted for the defense bill, but that won’t stop his colleagues from trying.
Here are the issues to look out for if and when leaders bring the measure to the floor.