Trump wall endangers must-pass defense bill

Talks on the annual defense policy bill are hitting a wall — President Trump‘s border wall.

Negotiators in the House and Senate say they are struggling to reach a compromise on several issues in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) related to the wall, dragging the must-pass bill into a quagmire that has bedeviled multiple legislative efforts in recent years.

The border wall was always expected to be among the most difficult issues in this year’s NDAA conference discussions. But grievances from the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees that have spilled into public from the private negotiations suggest a murky path forward for a bill that has been signed into law for nearly 60 years straight.

“I want to be really clear about this: There is one, and only one, reason why we’re not making progress on the bill, and that’s the wall,” House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said separately that negotiations are “not going well” and that the “border issue is probably the one that is the biggest issue.”

The House version of the NDAA is full of hot-button topics apart from the border that were seen as nonstarters in the GOP-controlled Senate: an attempt to block U.S. military action against Iran, a reversal of Trump’s transgender military ban and a ban on the deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons, among others.

The House NDAA passed in a party-line, 220-197 vote in July, while the Senate version passed in a bipartisan, 86-8 vote in June.

The non-border issues have remained contentious, too. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who sponsored the Iran amendment, said this week that is has been “a tough lift” during negotiations.

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