Political Report: 6/19/2018

 In Weekly Wire

Main Story: Senate to Wrap up FY 2019 NDAA as bill heads towards early Conference Committee

After a prolonged debate, the Senate passed its version of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act on Monday evening. This legislation, now named the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019,” provides guidelines for overall defense spending for FY 2019, as well as laying out a variety of policy and reporting requirements. The bill now goes to conference committee, where members reconcile House and Senate versions of the NDAA. Next week we will provide a detailed breakdown comparing investment priorities in both bills. But for this week we will explain why it took the Senate almost two weeks to pass the NDAA, while the House was able to do so in just a few days.

Fundamentally, the House and Senate operate on very different principles. The basic, driving premise of the House of Representatives is “that a majority of Members should ultimately be able to work their will on the floor.” While the agenda of the modern House is tightly controlled by the Speaker, once legislation is on the floor this principle will be borne out, allowing a majority to move forward towards passage fairly quickly. This, and a tightly controlled procedure for determining what will be allowed on the floor, is how the House is able to dispose of a “record number of amendments” and pass the NDAA.

Conversely, the Senate’s core principle is that the rights of the individual Senator are paramount. A single Senator can object to the Senate moving forward on almost any legislative measure, requiring a vote to “invoke cloture” that cuts off debate on the measure, requires 60 votes for passage, and then provides for an additional 30 hours of debate time. These requirements create a strong impetus for negotiations and achieving consensus. The Senate NDAA fell afoul of this requirement, as various individual senators sought to force consideration of their amendments. In response, Senate leadership managed a balance of negotiations and cloture votes to eventually work their way through the bill. However, the process for doing so took time, creating the delays in passage. While it may seem as though this process was time-consuming relative to how quickly the Senate can move on must-pass bills (such as funding CRs or Omnibuses), this really is not unusual and reflects the nature of the Senate as an institution.

House Activity

The House will consider two immigration bills this week, one supported by conservatives and one reflecting a leadership proposal that should appeal to moderate Republicans. It is unlikely either of these pieces of legislation will pass and neither would likely avoid a filibuster in the Senate.

Senate Activity

The Senate finished up consideration of the NDAA on Monday and will now turn its attention to its version of the appropriations minibus the House passed earlier this month.

Congressional Defense Activity

  • SASC
    • 6/19 “Nomination – Lt. General Austin S. Miller”, Full Committee Hearing, SD-G50 Dirksen, 930am
  • HASC
    • 6/20 “Military Health System Reform: Pain Management, Opioids Prescription Management and Reporting Transparency”, Military Personnel Subcommittee Hearing, 2212 Rayburn, 330pm
    • 6/21 “Military Technology Transfer: Threats, Impacts, and Solutions for the Department of Defense”, Full Committee Hearing, 2118 Rayburn, 10am
    • 6/21 “Aviation Mishap Prevention – A Progress Report” Readiness Subcommittee Hearing, 2212 Rayburn, 330pm
    • 6/22 “Space Situational Awareness: Whole of Government Perspectives on Roles and Responsibilities”, Strategic Forces Subcommittee Hearing, 9am
  • SAC-D
    • No hearings this week
  • HAC-D
    • No hearings this week

Government Activity Round-up

Nothing new from the CBO this week. However, there are three interesting GAO reports. First , the GAO looked at the data management practices of the Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy (MIBP) office in DoD. This office is responsible for growing and sustaining the defense industrial base. GAO found that there are significant issues in MIBP’s data systems and, unrelatedly, relies on contract staff to support its workforce, but “that these contractors may not access business-sensitive data”, putting limitations on their effectiveness. Full report here. The second report was a review of the administration’s 2015 and 2017 update for Nuclear Proliferation Verification Monitoring.

These plans (which GAO takes pain to point out “were two and four pages long”) did not meet basic reporting requirements. Full, eleven-page GAO report here. Lastly, GAO did a report on the state of the Federal cybersecurity workforce. Under the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act of 2015, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was required to create a coding structure to manage federal cybersecurity positions. In response, agencies were asked to submit reports of their current alignment with OPM’s proposed coding and structure. As GAO details, OPM submitted its requirements late and subsequently revised them, and many of the required agencies did not or could not submit full responses. In response GAO has put together 30 recommendations to attempt to ensure those agencies able to submit will fully implement the law. Full report here.

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