A showdown on the national defense bill will leave Hampton Roads projects in a lurch
The House and Senate are expected to clash over the final defense budget, after the Senate passed its version of the bill, leaving several projects for Hampton Roads hanging in the balance.
The Democratic-controlled Senate passed its version of the annual defense bill late last week. Earlier, the Republican-controlled House passed its version largely along party lines.
The House version includes several hot-button social issues, including ending the Pentagon’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
It would also end a policy that pays the travel expenses for women service members who seek out abortion services in states where it is legal.
Sen. Tim Kaine said those elements are likely to be removed in the final compromise.
“Service members are in places where they can’t make their own decisions about lawfully terminating a pregnancy,” Kaine said. “We would allow them to travel. We do it for Peace Corps Volunteers. We do it for federal prisoners. Why would we tell a service member that she has less rights than others?”
The Senate version of the bill includes more than $500 million for projects in Hampton Roads, including expanded child care at Little Creek-Fort Story and improvements to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where maintenance backlogs are common.
Lawmakers are still hammering out the details of a pact that includes eventually selling Virginia Class submarines to Australia, which are expected to be partially built at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News.
The Australian, United Kingdom, US (AUKUS) Pact was signed by the Biden administration in 2021, but details must still be passed by Congress.