Defense & Cyberspace

Worries persist despite additional billions for census
Concerns about potential undercounting remain among lawmakers from both parties, even with increased funding

Ranking member Rep. Robert Aderholt, D-Ala., conducts a House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on April 4, 2019. Aderhold said that while a new Census funding bill would put the bureau in “good shape,” he’s concerned the country may be facing a “trial run” for the new system that relies for the first time on online responses. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House appropriators this week included a hefty boost for the 2020 census above the proposal from the Trump administration, but concerns about potential undercounting remain among lawmakers from both parties.

They fear that despite the additional money, the Commerce Department hasn’t adequately geared up for decennial population count. Democrats continue to oppose a controversial citizenship question they say will depress immigrant response, while some Republicans worry that the use of online questionnaires will lead to shortfalls in rural areas.

3 things to watch: ‘Low expectations’ for Trump’s trip to meet Japan’s new emperor
‘I don’t think that the purpose of this trip is to focus on trade,’ administration official says

President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold a news conference at Mar-a-Lago in April 2018. The two leaders will spend another few days together when Trump visits Japan Saturday through Tuesday. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump will land in Japan on Saturday for a series of high-level meetings, but White House officials and experts say to expect a trip heavy on pomp-and-circumstance and light on substance.

In a sign of how important the U.S.-Japanese relationship is to the Asian country, Trump will become the first foreign leader to meet its new emperor, Naruhito. He will also meet several times with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for discussions on a list of issues ranging from trade to North Korea.

What’s the state of play on intern pay on Capitol Hill?
Intern compensation funding is up for discussion again

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., says he expects intern compensation funding to continue in the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Securing intern compensation funding last year was a huge victory for lawmakers and advocates. Now they just have to figure out how to get the word out and expand the pie. 

As interns descend on Capitol Hill for a summer of public service, more will be paid for their work than ever before. But widespread paid internships are still in their infancy in Congress. This is the first summer that House and Senate offices have dedicated funding available to cut checks.

Senate passes long-stalled disaster aid bill with Trump support
Negotiators agreed to revisit stripped border-related funding after the Memorial Day recess

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and chef Jose Andres talk after running into each other in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Andres was on Capitol Hill for a briefing held by the Power 4 Puerto Rico Coalition, calling on Congress to help Puerto Rico achieve future growth and prosperity after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. On Thursday the Senate approved a $19.1 billion disaster aid deal which included $600 million in nutrition assistance to Puerto Rico to help restore funding that ran dry in March. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After months of negotiations, Congress and the White House on Thursday reached agreement on a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill that will help communities recover from a series of deadly storms and wildfires. 

The draft bill does not include the border-related funding for migrants at the southern border sought by the Trump administration, the last hurdle that had been preventing a deal on the package.

US could be at war by the time Congress returns from recess, Udall says
Democrats force votes on approving war with Iran, but come up short in the Senate

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is worried that the United States may be at war with Iran by the time Congress returns from recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill have been forcing votes on President Donald Trump’s military powers this week amid the ratcheting up of tensions with Iran, getting predictably disparate results.

In the latest test, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday turned back a Democrat-led effort to move legislation designed to thwart preemptive military action against Iran.

DOJ, House Intel return to norms, compromise on redacted Mueller report materials
DOJ will furnish 12 categories of counterintelligence materials ‘by the end of next week,’ Chairman Schiff says

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has agreed to a compromise with the Justice Department over the schedule of the Mueller report’s counterintelligence materials DOJ will hand over to the committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Intelligence Committee chairman has accepted a Justice Department offer to provide the panel with 12 categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials underlying the Mueller report.

As a result of the eleventh hour agreement, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff canceled a Wednesday committee meeting where members were expected to vote on an “enforcement action” to compel Attorney General William Barr to comply with a sweeping subpoena. The committee was seeking the full report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s on his investigation into Russian election interference in 2016 and its underlying materials.

Military pay raise and troop increase endorsed by Senate panel
The Defense Department’s requests included 7,700 additional troops and a 3.1 percent military pay raise next year

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., attends a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing in the Russell Senate Office Building on March 26, 2019. Tillis is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, which quickly approved its portion of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill. It included a military pay raise and 7,700 additional troops. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo).

The Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee quickly approved its portion of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill Tuesday by a voice vote, endorsing the Defense Department’s requests for 7,700 additional troops and a 3.1 percent military pay raise next year.

The subcommittee, the only of the Armed Services panels to hold a public markup, approved a manager’s package of 54 amendments by voice vote. But the committee did not make any information publicly available about the amendments.

After Iran briefings, Democrats in Congress want to know more, sooner
Republicans generally on board with Trump administration moves

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among the Trump administration officials briefing lawmakers on Iran on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Intelligence briefings on U.S. relations with Iran Tuesday left Democrats in both the Senate and the House unsure of what the Trump administration’s objectives are following recent heightened tensions in the Middle East.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, along with acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, briefed lawmakers on their strategic campaign to push back against what he called “Iran’s malign activity” and described the country as participating in 40 years of terrorist activity.

Trump wants 400 TSA agents sent to the border. Democrats say that may hurt morale
Lawmakers worry high TSA turnover could increase after the White House said it was sending agents to the southwest border

A transportation security officer checks passengers at Reagan National Airport in D.C. Democrats raised concerns Tuesday that the Transportation Security Administration’s ongoing problems with high turnover rates could worsen after the Trump administration announced it would send 400 TSA workers to the southwest border to help with the migrant surge. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats raised concerns on Tuesday that the Transportation Security Administration’s ongoing problems with high turnover rates could worsen after the Trump administration announced it would send 400 TSA workers to the southwest border to help with the migrant surge.

“I think what I see now is continued manufacturing of a crisis, to the detriment of TSA and some other agencies, which should not be,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., House Homeland Security chairman, said at a Tuesday hearing on the TSA workforce crisis. “I’m concerned that we are now putting airports at risk potentially, as well as the traveling public at risk in general, by taking people away from airports and sending them to the border.”

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 USS Newport News (R) secures itself next to its sister Los Angeles-class submarine USS Boise (L) after returning to Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia. House appropriations said it plans to move $650 million of the Navy 2020 shipbuilding funds toward the maintenance of three submarines: USS Boise, USS Hartford and USS Columbus. (Mike Heffner/Getty Images)

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.

Iran escalations bring war powers debates back to the Capitol
Sen. Tim Kaine expects debate behind closed doors at the Armed Services Committee

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch says President Donald Trump “doesn’t need any more authority than what he’s got” to respond to a potential attack. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)k

A Senate briefing by the Trump administration Tuesday about the escalation in tensions with Iran appears certain to kick off another round of sparring over the president’s war powers.

When asked last week whether President Donald Trump could strike Iran using existing authorities from the authorization for use of military force that was enacted after 9/11, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reflected on the history of disputes between the executive and legislative branches.

Senators ask Trump administration why the ‘American Taliban’ is getting out of prison early
John Walker Lindh has been on track for release on Thursday

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby wants to know why the “American Taliban” is in line for early release. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A bipartisan team of senators is asking the Trump administration why the convicted terrorist who became known as the “American Taliban” is about to get early release from federal prison.

And the questions are coming in part from the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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

Demonstrators hold up signs protesting a possible Space Force before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on April 11, 2019, in Washington, DC. The House Defense Appropriations subcommittee provided $15 million in its defense spending bill, much lower than the administration’s request for $72.5 million. (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

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.

Taliban money and fighter jets at issue in Pentagon's $690 billion bill
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 110

U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. fly off the coast of Northwest Fla. May 15, 2013, off the coast of Northwest Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen/Released)

House appropriators this week will take up the biggest of the 12 annual spending bills, the $690 billion Pentagon measure that includes some prickly issues such as funding for Taliban expenses for peace talks with the U.S. and money to give the Pentagon more F-35 fighter jets than it requested, says CQ Roll Call's senior defense reporter John M. Donnelly. He lays out what is likely to happen to the measure that assumes higher spending levels for fiscal 2020.

Pentagon knew peace-talks fund would ‘likely’ benefit Taliban
Document suggests some money would give ‘material support to terrorists’

Aerial view of the Pentagon building photographed on Sept. 24, 2017. ( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Pentagon leaders formally asked Congress in writing earlier this year for a $30 million fund to support peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban, even though, the Defense Department officials wrote, it was “likely” some of the money would materially support terrorists.

The legislative proposal, obtained by CQ Roll Call, suggests that the fiscal 2020 money to cover logistics involved in the negotiations may directly or indirectly provide financial support to violent groups in Afghanistan that have been fighting Americans and their own countrymen, including in targeted attacks on civilians, for nearly 18 years.