This story was updated May 10, 2023, at 2:35 p.m. ET.
WASHINGTON — The partisan fight over raising the debt ceiling has temporarily derailed Congress’ work on the annual defense authorization bill.
The House’s markup of the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act — initially scheduled to begin this Thursday — is now postponed until Republicans and Democrats can reach a spending agreement as part of the gridlocked debt ceiling negotiations, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., told Defense News on Wednesday.
“I’m hopeful that as the speaker [of the House] meets with the president and the other congressional leaders on Friday that they can get some real specifics that get us closer to an agreement,” Scalise said at a news conference after the weekly Republican caucus meeting. “For now, we’re going to wait and see how that process plays out before starting the NDAA. But we’ve already been doing work on what those policies would look like on a national defense authorization.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., announced in a last-minute statement on Tuesday that the NDAA markup would be postponed until “the near future.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., met with President Joe Biden and other congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the debt ceiling, but the parties involved noted no progress was made on the issue.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has told Congress that the U.S. will default on its debts by June 1 absent congressional action to raise the ceiling.
House Republicans passed a bill last month along party lines that would raise the debt ceiling in exchange for several concessions, including $130 billion in discretionary spending cuts. The defense budget accounts for roughly half of annual discretionary spending.
Democrats are arguing Congress should pass a clean debt ceiling bill as congressional Republicans did under former President Donald Trump.
After Scalise noted the delay was due to the debt ceiling fight, Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey became the first Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee to come out swinging against the postponement. She accused Republican leaders of “putting partisan politics and a right-wing agenda above our national security, military readiness and the wellbeing of our servicemembers” as part of their “irresponsible attitude toward the debt ceiling.”
“This bill is the legislative linchpin of our national security,” Sherrill said in a statement. “It’s how Congress sets our national security policy, exercises oversight of the Department of Defense, and invests in military research and innovation. It’s also the legislation that raises servicemember salaries and provides for childcare and healthcare for military families.”
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the same committee, blamed McCarthy for the markup delay “because reality has come crashing in on this ridiculous, hypocritical fantasy.”
“Republican leadership has been arguing both that President Biden’s very substantial defense budget proposal is somehow billions of dollars less than it must be to meet our defense needs, and that we must make massive cuts to our discretionary budget to meet their idea of what fiscal responsibility would look like,” Smith said in a statement.
The Senate has not officially scheduled a markup for its version of the FY24 NDAA. Politico first reported on Tuesday that the House delayed the NDAA markup.
“We will be prepared to pass a robust NDAA,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., the chair of the House Republican Conference and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “The NDAA is the one bill that every single year we’ve been able to deliver and pass, certainly since I’ve been in Congress, but for decades.”
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.