Armed services committee leaders remain adamant that a deal could be reached for the fiscal year 2020 defense authorizing bill by early next week, but must still reach consensus on the same key issues that have plagued the deal all fall.
Following assertions on Wednesday that a deal could be reached either Friday or next Monday, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Thursday morning that conferees “have a couple of areas that are not resolved as much as I thought they were yesterday.”
He added that he spoke on the phone with President Donald Trump Wednesday evening as the president returned from the NATO Summit in Europe, and had an in-person meeting with Defense Secretary Mark Esper Thursday morning.
He added that “everyone is aware” of the impending deadline to complete negotiations, as the House and Senate must both pass the bill before Dec. 13 to avoid the threat of expiring authorizations on Jan. 1.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said multiple times Thursday that a deal could still be reached over the next day, but kept details close to the chest.
“I am not going to answer any more questions about this, until we finalize the bill. And then I’ll answer questions about what is actually in it, and why,” he said Thursday afternoon. Asked whether that could still occur in 24 hours, he answered, “That is my belief, yes.”
Smith acknowledged that there have been multiple “hiccups” on the road to achieving a conference report, but said the “Big Four” chairmen and ranking members continue to meet daily with congressional leaders and that “ultimately, we will have an agreement.”