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Roger Zakheim, Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation and Institute, discusses the impact of the 2020 election on the NDAA and the House and Senate Armed Services Committees

With both a new presidential administration and new Congress approaching, the composition of future defense budgets and House and Senate Armed Services could look a little different as well.

While the Democrats maintained the majority in the House of Representatives, the Republicans picked up eight seats in the 2020 election and could pick up a seat on the House Armed Services Committee. On the Senate side, things remain a little uncertain until the January 5 runoff elections in Georgia where two seats will be decided.

“You’ll get, perhaps, some shifting in the numbers [in the House], but it won’t be a huge number. Every number is consequential, given how limited and how narrow the majority is on the House side,” Roger Zakheim, Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, said. “In the Senate, we’ll see if it remains a Republican majority. If it does, you’re really not going to see a meaningful difference in terms of the composition of the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

Adding to the equation is the conclusion of the 116th Congress on January 3, 2021. Any bills that are not signed into law by then, notably the National Defense Authorization Act, are considered dead and will not be passed until the next Congress.

“Regardless of the election outcome, [Congress] has to get their work done this year,” Zakheim added.

That work still faces a veto threat from President Trump, who has been very vocal in his opposition towards a provision in both the House and Senate versions of the bill to rename bases named after Confederate military leaders. The provision has received widely bipartisan support on the Hill.

“Now, the chairs and ranking members have to decide whether they want to keep some of that language in there and play a game of chicken with the President over his veto threat,” Zakheim said. “Or, do they want to take out that language to ensure safe passage of that bill which has passed and been enacted for 60 years straight.”

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