With a two-year budget deal in place, the heads of the House and Senate Armed Services committees see a relatively smooth path ahead for the recently-vetoed 2016 defense authorization bill.
That means new life for a plan to radically overhaul military retirement, for proposed defense acquisition reforms, and for a host of other critical program renewals.
Both Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said they expect the bill to be reintroduced or resurrected in the next few days, after the broader budget agreement is finalized.
"I think everybody is going to agree," McCain said. "We'll have to redo it, take $5 billion out, but hopefully we'll get it done. I don't think it will take much time."
Thornberry said he was confident that "nobody is going to walk away" from the defense policy bill, especially now that White House and congressional negotiators have worked through the funding issues that led President Obama to veto the legislation.
Last week, Obama sent the $612 billion bill back to Congress, saying it "fails to authorize funding for our national defense in a fiscally responsible manner."
At issue was about $38 billion that Republican lawmakers added to the Pentagon's overseas contingency fund in order to get around mandatory spending caps enacted by Congress for fiscal 2016. Republicans had argued that the issue was better settled in the separate appropriations process, not the authorization process.
But the two-year budget deal unveiled Monday night essentially solves that problem, McCain said. Under the plan, fiscal 2016 defense spending would be raised to $607 billion, necessitating some changes in the totals of the authorization bill language.
McCain could not say where those $5 billion in cuts would come from, but said he was confident Pentagon and congressional experts can find a quick solution.
House leaders had scheduled a veto override vote for next week, but the status of that maneuver is now unclear. Thornberry said he is confident that lawmakers will find a way to pass a defense authorization bill for the 54th consecutive year "one way or another."
The military retirement changes would dump the traditional 20-year, all-or-nothing system and replace it for new enlistees with a 401(k)-style blended pension plan. Supporters have said the change would give the vast majority of troops some retirement payout upon leaving the service, while the current system benefits fewer than one in five troops.
The procurement reforms give service chiefs and secretaries overall responsibility for acquisition programs within their services, a change from the single joint-service office that has held decision-making authority over those programs for three decades.
The authorization bill also includes new language to loosen restrictions on troops carrying personal firearms on base, new protections for sexual assault victims, and trims in military housing allowances designed to save money for force modernization programs.