Conference committee lawmakers met Thursday for the first time to officially begin reconciliation negotiations on the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), The Hill reported.
The meeting brought together dozens of conferees, the lawmakers appointed by congressional leadership to hash out the differences between the House and Senate-passed defense bills.
The leaders of the Armed Services committees would not indicate where they will land on several thorny debates looming over them, according to the report.
“I appreciate the questions, but we’re not going to tell you how we’re going to have an outcome here at this press conference, in part because we don’t know what that outcome is yet,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told reporters. “That’s the nature of a conference committee.”
Despite the controversial issues facing negotiators, the committee leaders expressed hope they could continue the 58-year streak of getting the FY 2020 NDAA signed into law.
“All four of us are determined to do everything we possibly can to make it 59,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. “This is not just policy differences and so forth. There are flesh and blood men and women serving our country right now all over the world who are affected by the decisions we make, as well as adversaries and allies that are watching what we do.”
While Thursday’s meeting was the first official gathering of conferees, committee leaders have already met multiple times to work through the bill’s different provisions.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has cited his years of work with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), expressing that the two sides will reach an amicable conference report by October, according to the report.