The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will continue to work on building its version of the fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but a final bill passage is unlikely to occur before Oct. 1, the committee chairman said April 7.
HASC has sufficient material to keep ploughing ahead with its markup of the FY ’21 presidential budget request and to craft its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash) said in a Tuesday media teleconference.
“We had done quite a few hearings; we got the president’s budget and staff was working away,” Smith said. “The plan basically is get it ready, freeze-dry it for a while, and when we come back, we’ll be ready to go.” Congress is on recess until April 20, and many members have opted to self-quarantine away from Capitol Hill to avoid or spreading the highly contagious coronavirus.
Smith said that the committee is not currently considering a “scaled back” version of the bill. He noted that Congress had already expected to be out of session for most of April, due to a scheduled two-week recess and the Democratic retreat. They also expected to have a shortened session during the election year.
He acknowledged that the likelihood that a deal can be passed by the House and Senate before the end of FY ’20 is getting smaller.
“The likelihood that it slips past Oct. 1 is obviously increasing by the day. I think you’re going to see a lot of the congressional action that was planned for this year shift to the right,” he said. Originally, lawmakers wanted to complete all of its legislation by Sept. 30 to focus on reelection campaigns for the remainder of the fall.
“That’s part of what drove my optimism [is] we weren’t planning on being in session past Oct. 1,” he said. “I thought there would be an impetus to get this done. … Now, that’s likely to slip.”