Defense & Cyberspace

Lawmakers spar big-time on behalf of rocket companies
Billions of dollars in business, and the future of national security, are at stake in fight over developing a new generation of rockets

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on February 6, 2018 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket is the most powerful rocket in the world and is carrying a Tesla Roadster into orbit. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

More than two-dozen House members have thrown the latest punch in a bare-knuckled fight that pits competing U.S. rocket manufacturers and their allies on Capitol Hill against one another.

A bipartisan group of 28 House members urged Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson in an April 12 letter not to alter the service’s blueprint for developing a new generation of rockets to lift U.S. military and spy satellites into orbit. But plenty of other lawmakers have pushed for several changes.

Progressive power play: Pentagon-level spending for nondefense programs
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 107

Rep. Mark Pocan, D- Wis., who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wants to open the conversation on boosting nondefense spending.(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Hemp concerns and trade jitters top agriculture appropriations hearing
The Agriculture Department’s request includes cuts to research, rural housing and international humanitarian food programs

Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue takes his seat to testify during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate appropriators had trade woes and the promise of industrial hemp on their minds Thursday as they sought assurances from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue of better times for farmers in their states.

Perdue testified before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on the president’s $15.7 billion request for discretionary funding for the Agriculture Department. The request is more than $4.2 billion lower than the enacted level for fiscal 2019 and includes cuts to research, rural housing, international humanitarian food programs and other areas popular with lawmakers.

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

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford (center) is seen while protesters hold up signs before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on April 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. The acting defense secretary is pitching the idea of creating a Space Force as a separate branch of the military to Congress. (Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

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.

Republican senators to press disaster aid case to Trump

UNITED STATES - MARCH 5: Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., talks with reporters before the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby will meet with President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday afternoon to discuss a path forward on disaster aid, the Alabama Republican told reporters.

GOP Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Joni Ernst of Iowa will also attend the meeting, Shelby said.

Trump piggybacks on Barr comments on 2016 ‘spying’
President says he might be open to a small deal with North Korea to keep talks alive

President Trump in the Oval Office Thursday before he took questions from reporters as First Lady Melania Trump looks on. (John T. Bennett/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday alleged there was “unprecedented” and “illegal” spying into his 2016 campaign, and also signaled he could be open to a smaller deal with North Korea to keep talks alive.

Trump was asked if he agrees with comments made — and then clarified —during Senate testimony Wednesday by Attorney General William P. Barr said “spying did occur” before closing the session with this clarification: “I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I am saying I am concerned about it and looking into it — that’s all.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz taunts Rep. Adam Schiff with PENCIL Act
GOP congressman’s bill acronym repeats Trump’s insult of Intelligence Committee chairman

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., named a new bill targeting Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff the PENCIL Act after President Donald Trump called the Democrat “pencil neck.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Matt Gaetz wants to codify one of President Donald Trump’s taunts into federal law.

The Florida Republican filed a bill Wednesday that would boot Rep. Adam Schiff from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Punishment for border wall money transfer could pinch Pentagon
Lawmakers want to remind the White House who holds the power of the purse

When domestic events strain Defense Department accounts, the Pentagon is used to moving money around. But now that the president is testing that time-honored flexibility, Congress is considering a change. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump’s controversial border wall could propel lawmakers to end a time-honored “gentleman’s agreement” that has allowed the Pentagon to shift billions of dollars around in its budget — a move that could hamstring the military’s ability to respond quickly to unforeseen events.

House Democrats are poised to retaliate against Trump’s decision to repurpose Defense Department funds to help pay for the wall along the southern border, and the Pentagon’s budget flexibility seems to be the target.

Trump tries to revive North Korea talks in meeting with South Korea’s Moon
Experts see Moon urging U.S. leader to pursue ‘small deal’ with Kim Jong Un

President Donald Trump will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House on Thursday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump will try to revive his push to strip North Korea of its nuclear weapons when he hosts South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday. The visit comes as lawmakers worry about Kim Jong Un’s arsenal, with experts encouraging talks in hopes of even a “small deal.”

Trump’s second nuclear disarmament summit was cut short in late February after he and Kim reached an impasse over several issues, including the latter’s demand for some sanctions to be lifted before he started dismantling his atomic arms and long-range missile programs. Trump has signaled he was at least partially distracted during the meetings in Vietnam by his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s testimony before a House panel at the same time.

Did you say ‘spying?’ Barr walks back testimony after making a stir
Barr clears up his Senate testimony after cable news and social media buzz over one of his word choices

Attorney General William Barr testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. Lee J. Lofthus, assistant attorney general for administration, appears at left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney General William Barr sought to “please add one point of clarification” at the end of his testimony Wednesday before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee — and the veteran law enforcement official needed it.

Cable news and social media were abuzz with one of Barr’s earlier word choices, when he told senators that he would look into the work of U.S. intelligence agencies directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election because “spying did occur.”

Rep. Jackie Speier urges Kim Kardashian to tweet at Trump about Armenian genocide
Most U.S. presidents have stopped short of acknowledging the systematic killing of Armenians

Kim Kardashian, in black, enters the White House grounds in May 2018 to meet with members of the Trump administration. (Win McNamee/Getty Images file photo)

Rep. Jackie Speier said the push for President Donald Trump to condemn the Armenian genocide has a “secret weapon” — his fellow television reality star Kim Kardashian.

“I think within our diaspora we have a secret weapon to get him to recognize the Armenian genocide,” Speier said Tuesday. “I think we all need to tweet to Kim Kardashian and ask her,” prompting some laughter from the crowd.

House puts off vote on spending caps deal; adopts ‘deeming’ resolution

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced the spending caps bill would be punted until at least after the two-week recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House set an overall spending cap of nearly $1.3 trillion for appropriators in that chamber to write their fiscal 2020 bills, adopting a “deeming resolution” on Tuesday as part of the rule governing floor debate on separate spending caps legislation — although that legislation hit a snag on Tuesday. 

The tally was 219-201, with no Republicans voting for the rule and seven Democrats voting ‘no.’

Democrats ponder power of the purse to get full Mueller report

Attorney General William Barr is greeted by full committee chair Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., before a House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing in Rayburn Building on the Department of Justice's budget request for Fiscal Year 2020 on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Top Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee aren’t ready to wield their power over Justice Department funding to pressure Attorney General William Barr to provide the full special counsel report from Robert S. Mueller III — but they aren’t ruling it out either.

Rep. Jose E. Serrano, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the DOJ budget, told reporters that appropriators could prescribe that no dollars be used to block Mueller’s full report from being released — not that he’s saying that would happen.

Progressives are holding back votes on the spending caps bill
Progressive Congressional Caucus leaders want more nondefense funding over the next two years

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., participates in the House Democrats' news conference in the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said Tuesday that the current bill to raise discretionary spending caps won’t pass the House unless it’s amended to allow more nondefense funding over the next two years.

“We do think that if we’re going to go negotiate, we should be negotiating from our strongest place and our strongest place is saying we want more nondefense spending. So that’s where many of us are at,” Rep. Mark Pocan said after a House Democratic Caucus meeting.

Trump likely to put economic, military ties ahead of human rights with Egypt’s Sisi
POTUS expected to warn Egyptian leader against closer military ties with Russia, official says

President Donald Trump welcomes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi during his arrival at the White House in 2017. Trump is expected to try to keep the Egyptian leader from drifting too close to Russia during their meeting on Tuesday. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

When Donald Trump welcomes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the White House on Tuesday, expect the U.S. president to stress military cooperation even amid questions about that country’s human rights record.

Human rights groups are accusing Sisi’s government of torturing political foes and using death sentences against opponents. What’s more, the Egyptian parliament has approved constitutional changes that would extend Sisi’s time in office.