Senate Heads Out for Recess Without Acting on NDAA

Senate Heads Out for Recess Without Acting on NDAA

The Senate headed out of town for a slightly delayed August recess tonight and will return to work on September 5.  The FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will have to wait until then to be considered by the Senate.

Originally, the Senate planned to adjourn last Friday, the same time as the House.  President Trump convinced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay the Senate’s August recess for two weeks in the hope of passing health care reform and making progress on other legislation. McConnell agreed and set a new adjournment date of August 11, but following last week’s health care vote failure, the dynamics changed and the decision eventually was made to adjourn today.

The Senate, as well as the House, will meet regularly in “pro forma” sessions throughout the month, but no legislative business is conducted during those sessions.  It is a tactic that prevents a President from making recess appointments since officially the chambers are not in recess.  Usually only one Senator or Representative is present and gavels the chamber into and out of session in less than 5 minutes.

The Senate passed a large number of nominations and several bills before departing.  None of the bills are space-related, but among he nominations confirmed this week are those of Ellen Lord to be Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD/ATL), Matthew Donovan to be Under Secretary of the Air Force, and Robert Daigle to be Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE).  Richard Spencer also was confirmed to be Secretary of the Navy.  Former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who was instrumental in writing and passing the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to NATO.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) expressed hope last week  that the Senate would turn to consideration of the NDAA, which his Armed Services Committee reported to the Senate on July 11, but that now will have to wait until September — at least.   When Congress returns it will have little time to pass an appropriations bill(s) to keep the government operating when the new fiscal year begins on October 1. It also must raise the debt limit by September 29.  Whether there also will be time to take up the NDAA remains to be seen.  McCain told colleagues this week that he plans to continue working during his treatments for brain cancer.

The House passed its version of the NDAA on July 14.   It also passed an appropriations bill that bundles together four of the 12 regular FY2018 appropriations bills:  Defense, Energy-Water, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch.   The legislation (H.R. 3219) is referred to as the Make America Secure Appropriations Act.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has not acted on the Defense Appropriations bill yet other than to hold a subcommittee hearing.

Appropriations bills for the agencies in the other eight regular appropriations bills are in various stages of the legislative process.  The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill, which includes NASA and NOAA, has been reported from both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, but have not reached the floors of their respective chambers for debate.

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