Patrick Kelley

Unorthodox Senate deal clears path for Thursday NDAA vote
Democrats had threatened to filibuster the defense bill unless the Iran amendment received a vote on Friday

Senate leaders struck an unusual deal Wednesday afternoon to hold a vote on language that would block President Donald Trump from launching a war against Iran without congressional approval, paving the way for a final vote on the massive Pentagon policy measure on Thursday.

But the vote on the Iran amendment will happen on Friday, to accommodate Senate Democrats participating in presidential debates this week, a GOP aide said. If the chamber adopts the language, which has the support of at least two Republican senators, it would then be retroactively included in the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill.

NDAA future uncertain amid amendment disputes

The Senate is barreling toward a procedural vote Wednesday on the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill, but the typically bipartisan measure could become the victim of a filibuster amid a battle over amendments.

Democrats could block cloture on the bill if they don’t receive assurances from Senate Republicans of a vote on an amendment that would stop President Donald Trump from launching a war against Iran without congressional approval.

Trump’s military transgender ban blocked in House spending bill
The House move lines up what will surely be a battle with the Senate during conference negotiations later this year.

The House on Tuesday used a massive spending bill to block the Pentagon from enforcing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people from serving openly in the military.

By a vote of 243-183, the House adopted an amendment to the four-bill spending package that includes the defense appropriations measure, lining up what will surely be a battle with the Senate during conference negotiations later this year.

Border wall, nuclear weapons to spark partisan fight at defense bill debate
House Armed Services to being marathon annual markup on Wednesday

Adam Smith’s first bill as House Armed Services chairman will surely stir contentious debate during the panel’s markup Wednesday of the annual Pentagon policy bill, a marathon session that is expected to extend into the early morning hours Thursday.

The chairman’s mark — the Washington Democrat’s portion of the massive defense authorization bill — tees up partisan fights on Guantanamo Bay, nuclear weapons and the border wall. It says nothing on President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force, an issue that Smith said Monday would likely find its way in the bill through a bipartisan amendment.

As Turkish leader courts Russia, U.S. prepares to cut ties
House appropriators expected to soon approve provision in defense spending bill to remove Turkey from F-35 program.

Jilted by the United States, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, has found a new friend, and possibly a new defense patron, in Washington’s longtime nemesis, Vladimir Putin.

For the United States, a NATO ally cozying up to Russia is more than an inconvenience. It’s a national security threat.

Lawmakers on impeachment and F-35s to Turkey
CQ on Congress podcast, Episode 155

In his first public statement after his two-year probe, Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel, said this week that he had never considered charging President Donald Trump with a crime as he investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election. That’s emboldened those in Congress who say representatives must read Mueller’s report, which found evidence Trump may have obstructed the special council’s investigation as an impeachment referral. 

[As Turkish leader courts Russia, U.S. prepares to cut ties]

House appropriators put a premium on fixing decaying subs
The decision to pay for maintenance over shipbuilding, is based on long repair delays for some of the Navy’s pricey subs

The House Appropriations Committee on Monday said it plans to move $650 million from the Navy’s requested fiscal 2020 shipbuilding account to the service’s operations and maintenance account to address maintenance delays for the Pentagon’s submarine fleet.

The decision to fund more maintenance against shipbuilding, according to a committee report released Monday, is based on long repair delays for some of the Navy’s pricey attack submarines.

Space Force gets cautious OK in House defense spending bill
The House 2020 defense spending bill would provide $15 million, a fraction of Trump’s $72.5 million request

The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee has signaled that it will entertain, but constrain, President Donald Trump’s plans to create a new military service that focuses exclusively on space.

The House’s version of the fiscal 2020 defense spending bill would provide $15 million for Space Force operations and maintenance, almost $57.5 million lower than the administration’s $72.5 million request, according to the committee report released Monday.

Senators remain skeptical of Space Force
Lawmakers agreed space defense is important, but many logistical questions remain

Top Pentagon officials on Thursday deployed old arguments to argue for a new military service within the Department of the Air Force focused specifically on space.

The United States risks losing its competitive edge in space to Russia and China unless the Pentagon stands up Space Force to defend extraterrestrial military and commercial interests, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Pentagon wants Congress to replenish funds Trump taps for border wall
Wasserman Schultz calls plan an end-run around Congress

The Pentagon every year comes to Congress to defend its ever-growing budget, highlighting the decrepit military installations and decades-old equipment that must be refurbished or replaced to defend the nation.

But now, Pentagon officials are telling lawmakers that diverting dollars from defense projects to build President Donald Trump’s desired border wall is justified and won’t weaken the military — so long as Congress replenishes the accounts Trump could tap to build the wall.

No military threat at southern border, top U.S. general says
Comments come as House prepares to vote on disapproval of border emergency declaration

The U.S. military commander tasked with defending North America said Tuesday that there is no military threat at the southern border, where President Donald Trump has deployed troops to assist law enforcement in stemming illegal border crossings.

“It is not a military threat,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, who leads U.S. Northern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday morning. He quickly added that doesn’t necessarily mean the military should not be involved in the border mission.

Reed: Congress should be consulted on any Colombia deployment
The top Democrat on Senate Armed Services warned generals against planning military intervention in Venezuela without congressional input

The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee warned generals on Thursday against planning a military intervention in Venezuela without first seeking congressional input.

“Congress must be consulted if there is any military action beyond the current planning for the evacuation of U.S. citizens and embassy personnel" in Venezuela, Jack Reed of Rhode Island told Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command.

Armed Services experience is ‘in’ for 2020 presidential
Gillibrand, Warren and Gabbard will play up their national security cred as they vie to be commander in chief

Three sitting members of Congress who have announced plans to seek the presidency in 2020 have a few things in common: they’re all Democrats, they’re all women, and they all sit on their respective chamber’s Armed Services committee.

To date, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have formed committees to explore a challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020, while Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has officially launched her presidential campaign.

Trump Loves Space Force. Can He Convince Skeptical Lawmakers?
Congressional authorization required to create new service branch

President Donald Trump may typically communicate via quickly fired, unfiltered tweets, but when he talks about creating a Space Force to defend vulnerable U.S. satellites and other extraterrestrial interests, his language becomes uncharacteristically poetic.

“The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers,” he said in June as he instructed the Defense Department to create this new force. “But our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security — important for our military, so important.”

DHS Detects Elections Systems Scanning
Could be hackers looking for vulnerabilities, but ‘run-of-the-mill’

Homeland Security officials at the Washington elections command post said they had detected some “run-of-the-mill” scanning of elections systems a little past noon on Election Day.

Scanning of systems is something many hackers try to do routinely to search for vulnerabilities. In physical terms, scanning is the equivalent of a burglar walking through a neighborhood to see if any of the houses are unlocked.

Midterm Elections Hold Ultimate Verdict on Kavanaugh
McConnell asserts confirmation process driving up Republican enthusiasm

Even before Saturday’s Senate vote made Brett Kavanaugh a Supreme Court justice, senators from both parties said voters soon would deliver the final verdict on President Donald Trump’s divisive appointment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in an interview with Roll Call a month ahead of Election Day, said the contentious debate about the confirmation process was driving up base enthusiasm for the 2018 midterm elections.

Daines Now Says He Will be Back in D.C. for Kavanaugh Vote If Needed
Republican senator is scheduled to be in Montana this weekend for his daughter’s wedding

Republican Sen. Steve Daines sounded optimistic about getting back to D.C. for a final vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination a day after saying he wouldn’t be around if the vote came Saturday.

Daines told The Associated Press on Thursday that he would be in Montana for his daughter’s wedding, whether the vote was held then or not.

Latest Kavanaugh Allegations Send Senate Into Chaos
Reactions vary from unwillingness to engage to angry defiance from GOP

As the latest allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh swept through the Capitol, the Senate Judiciary Committee said it was reviewing the claims, even on the eve of a historic hearing on which the fate of his confirmation hangs.

Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley told a horde of reporters that staff attorneys are reviewing the latest allegations, outlined in a graphic declaration sent to the panel from Julie Swetnick, who says Kavanaugh was present while she was gang raped at a high school party in 1982.

Congress Again Blocks F-35 Transfers to Turkey
Turkish president rebuffed Trump request to release detained American pastor

Congress is poised to pass legislation that will block the transfer of the F-35 stealth fighter to Turkey, a NATO ally that helps produce the jet, as Turkey moves forward with plans to purchase Russian-made missile defense systems and refuses to release a detained U.S. pastor.

A provision in the fiscal 2019 Defense spending bill would withhold any funds from being used to deliver the jets to Turkey until the secretaries of State and Defense send Congress a comprehensive report on the U.S.-Turkish military and diplomatic relationships. The provision essentially matches language in the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill, which became law earlier this year.    

Inhofe Armed Services Leadership to Depart Drastically From McCain’s
Late Arizona senator rankled president and Pentagon, Inhofe sympathetic to both

With John McCain’s death Saturday, the Senate Armed Services gavel will almost certainly pass to James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, marking a significant change in leadership style and priorities for the powerful panel.

While the boisterous McCain was a hard-charging critic of both the Pentagon and the commander in chief, the more subdued Inhofe is, in many ways, the opposite.