Adam Smith

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.

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.

Engel promises tough oversight of Trump's North Korea nuclear talks
House Democrats are ready for a deal, but only if it offers permanent denuclearization

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., participates in the House Democrats’ news conference on the “NATO Support Act” before its consideration on the House floor on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Trump administration must be more transparent about its North Korea policy if it wants congressional support for implementing any nuclear agreement that could come out of this week’s summit in Hanoi, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Monday.

Chairman Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., said House Democrats are ready to be constructive partners in implementing a possible U.S.-North Korea nuclear deal, but only if it offers a credible path toward Pyongyang’s permanent denuclearization.

Trump’s 2020 budget to contain a big defense boost, and nondefense spending cuts
Russ Vought confirms end-run around spending caps for defense while axing to nondefense appropriations in 2020 budget request

Boxes containing President Donald Trump’s budget request for FY2019 are unpacked by staff in the House Budget Committee hearing room, Feb. 12, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The White House’s top budget official confirmed plans to do an end-run around statutory spending caps for defense and add substantially to the off-budget overseas warfighting accounts, while simultaneously taking an ax to nondefense appropriations in President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request.

In an opinion piece published online in RealClearPolitics, Office and Management and Budget acting Director Russ Vought laid out a case for boosting the Overseas Contingency Operations ledger well beyond what the Trump administration and Congress have sought in recent years.

Democrats could stymie nuclear arms race after US leaves pact
2020 presidential hopefuls have already thrown support behind legislative efforts

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley has introduced legislation that would prohibit funding for the flight-testing, acquisition and deployment of U.S. ground-launched ballistic missiles with ranges banned by the INF treaty. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congress can do little to halt the U.S. withdrawal from a nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, if President Donald Trump is determined to do so. But Democrats could have opportunities to shape and even block the administration’s plans to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Earlier this month, the White House announced it would leave the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in six months. The Kremlin quickly responded that it too would cease honoring its arms control commitments under the accord, though the United States and NATO have long accused Russia of already violating the treaty by deploying an intermediate-range, ground-launched cruise missile.

The insiders: Roll Call’s people to watch in 2019
Some in Congress and the administration will wield power or influence quietly

Four key Hill players from both parties made Roll Call’s list of people to watch in 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The third year of Donald Trump’s presidency promises to be a time like no other in American history. Never before have both the legitimacy and the competency of the president been so vigorously challenged, and the questions will increase exponentially as House Democrats and the special counsel probe deeper.

So it is no surprise that most of Roll Call’s People to Watch in 2019 revolve around the world of Trump.

Parties are swapping war positions in Trump era
Plenty of members of both parties are deviating from the new script — and the battle lines are still taking shape

President Donald Trump, flanked from left by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S. Dak., Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stops to speak to the cameras following his lunch with Senate Republicans in the Capitol on Wed. Jan. 9, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — Under the presidency of Donald Trump, America’s political parties have scrambled their traditional positions on war and peace.

The GOP has spent the bulk of the last 17 years arguing in favor of launching and then continuing overseas wars. But now some Republicans in Washington — and most Republicans in the country at large — back Trump’s plan to withdraw most U.S. troops from far-flung battlefields.

Lots of questions, but few answers at hearing on troops’ border deployment
First House Armed Services Committee hearing probes rationale, effects of active duty mission

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., used his first Armed Services Committee hearing as chairman to probe the Pentagon's deployment of active-duty troops to the southern border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The first House Armed Services hearing of the new Congress, an examination of the deployment of thousands of troops to America’s southern border, did not answer fundamental questions about the mission, now in its third month.

Most lawmakers neglected to adequately press defense officials on the contentious deployment on Tuesday, and Pentagon witnesses were unable or unwilling to answer many of the questions they got.

Barr says he’d resign rather than fire Mueller without cause
Attorney general nominee fills in some blanks with new answers on special counsel probe, border wall, abortion

William P. Barr, nominee to be attorney general, speaks during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 15. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Attorney General nominee William Barr assured senators that he would not fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III without good cause or change Justice Department regulations for the purpose of firing him.

“I would resign rather than follow an order to terminate the special counsel without good cause,” Barr said in written answers to questions from Senate Judiciary Committee members released Monday.

Threats over shutdown, emergency declaration hang over coming talks
Amid the optimism, acrimony and hard feelings frame debate

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., seen after a Friday news conference in the Capitol about a continuing resolution to reopen the government. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The shutdown wasn’t even over before the next shutdown threat was leveled at Congress by President Donald Trump. 

Yes, congressional leaders and the president struck a deal Friday to end the partial government shutdown, for three weeks at least. But hanging over the negotiations on a broader deal will be Trump’s threats to declare a national emergency or force another impasse to expedite building a southern border barrier, an extra bit of animus coloring the coming talks.