The House voted Thursday to begin negotiations with the Senate to hammer out a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which lays out military policy for 2018.
The green light to create the joint conference committee must now be approved by the Senate and is a key step toward Congress finalizing what leaders of the armed services committees hope will be a major defense hike. The vote was made via unanimous consent.
Both the $696 billion House and $700 billion Senate versions contain more troops, ships, and aircraft than President Trump's $639 billion request from this spring, as well as a raft of policy issues such as the contentious proposal to creation of a Space Corps military service.
Members of the committee must agree on those issues and produce a final NDAA to be voted on in both chambers.
However, Congress must reach a broader budget agreement to lift a $549 billion defense cap set in law for fiscal 2018, or the plans for big increases could be scuttled. Lawmakers have until December when the current stopgap budget measure passed in September expires.