Both the House and Senate Armed Service committees will mark up their annual defense authorization bill drafts this week, but the public will only get to see one of them do their work.
That’s because Senate lawmakers have opted to continue their tradition of conducting the high-stakes defense policy work behind closed doors. All of the subcommittee work — except for the personnel subcommittee, which will hold a public hearing on Wednesday — and the full committee debate is closed to the public, shutting off insight into where senators stand on the debates that will shape the Defense Department for years to come.
In contrast, the House Armed Services Committee will hold an open markup of its draft bill on Wednesday. The work is expected to last more than 14 hours. In the last 11 years, the marathon event has only finished before midnight twice.
The public debate includes hours of discussion over spending priorities, personnel requirements and policy changes. Senate lawmakers have said the open debate prompts posturing and inhibits frank discussions. House lawmakers insist the work should be done in a matter where all Americans can observe and learn about the issues.
By the end of the week, both committees are expected to have their separate versions of the legislation ready to head to their respective chamber floors for votes. After that, House and Senate leaders will spend the next few months negotiating a compromise bill, with the goal of sending the measure to the White House sometime this fall.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.
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