Defense & Cyberspace

Defense conferees to decide fate of firearms export oversight
Decision nears on blocking the Trump administration from weakening regulations on the export of firearms

Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif. added an amendment restricting the administration from moving forward with its plan to shift export control of firearm sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Among the many thorny issues Senate and House negotiators have to hash out as they negotiate a final annual defense policy bill this summer is whether to block the Trump administration from weakening regulations around the export of firearms.

The House version of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization measure contains a provision that would restrict the administration from moving forward with its plan to shift export control of firearm sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department.

Pelosi, Mnuchin appear close to spending caps, debt limit deal
Agreement would likely include a two-year extension of the debt limit and spending levels

Pelosi reiterated Tuesday her view that in addition to "parity" for nondefense and defense spending increases, funding should be added for Department of Veterans Affairs health care. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are close to making an announcement about spending caps and the debt limit.

“We have a clear understanding of what we want to agree to, and I think that's progress,” Pelosi said Tuesday afternoon after speaking with Mnuchin, who was preparing to leave Wednesday for the G-7 meeting in France. “We'll have an announcement about something soon, one way or the other.”

Esper on path for quick confirmation despite Raytheon ties
The former lobbyist stressed Tuesday that his undivided loyalties are to serving the country and the military

Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., left, shakes hands with Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper before the start of Esper’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mark Esper, President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next Defense secretary, defended his work as a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon during his confirmation hearing Tuesday, stressing that his undivided loyalties are to serving the country and the military.

During an otherwise uncontentious hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, sparred with Esper on his ties to the Massachusetts-based defense giant and implored the nominee to recuse himself from any decisions affecting the firm, which he declined to do.

House bill targets Qatar-linked ‘flag of convenience’ Italian airline
Targets ‘flag of convenience’ airlines from undermining labor standards

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., joined a bill targeting low-cost foreign airlines seeking to fly to the United States. (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A House bill that would limit access of foreign airlines to the U.S. based on substandard labor conditions for their workers is the latest round in a long — and mostly successful — fight by U.S. airlines and aviation unions to keep low-cost foreign competition out of the U.S. market.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio was joined by other committee leaders, including Republicans, in sponsoring the bill introduced last week and aimed at preventing “flag of convenience” airlines from undermining labor standards.

Senate appropriations markups likely off until September
Congressional leaders and Trump administration have to agree on spending caps in next few weeks

Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., is holding off on assembling the fiscal 2020 spending bills (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Appropriations Committee likely won’t mark up any of its fiscal 2020 spending bills before leaving town for the August recess — the first time in more than three decades the panel hasn’t debated any of the annual spending bills before the customary summer break.

The decision to hold back Senate appropriations bills in the absence of a spending caps agreement has set a markedly different pace for the committee than last year, when it sent all 12 of its bills to the floor before the break began.

Seth Moulton makes case that good foreign policy will beat Trump
Massachusetts Democrat and presidential long shot highlights his combat experience, alliance

Presidential hopeful Seth Moulton, here at a July Fourth parade in Boulder City, Nev., says he gets more questions about foreign policy than health care on the campaign trail. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton ranks among the lower tier of 2020 Democratic White House hopefuls, but as a Marine Corps combat veteran, he argues that a foreign policy focus will be needed to lure moderates and Republicans to vote against President Donald Trump.

Moulton grabbed some attention in Iowa over the weekend with a full push for the president’s impeachment and removal.

House orders Pentagon to say if it weaponized ticks and released them
The order requires the agency to say if it experimented with insects for use as a biological weapon between 1950 and 1975

A Close Up Of An Adult Female Deer Tick, Dog Tick, And A Lone Star Tick on book print. The House vote to require the Pentagon inspector general to tell Congress whether the department experimented with weaponizing disease-carrying insects and whether they were released into the public realm — either accidentally or on purpose. (Getty Images)

The House quietly voted last week to require the Pentagon inspector general to tell Congress whether the department experimented with weaponizing disease-carrying insects and whether they were released into the public realm — either accidentally or on purpose.

The unusual proposal took the form of an amendment that was adopted by voice vote July 11 during House debate on the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill, which lawmakers passed the following day.

Capitol Ink | Afghanistandard Response

Pelosi: Extra veterans health care funds needed in debt deal
Letter to Mnuchin opens new front in talks to raise debt limit and 2020 spending caps

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that funds for veterans health care should be included in any deal to raise the debt ceiling and spending caps. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday pressing for added funds to help veterans see private doctors as part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling and tight appropriations caps.

Pelosi’s letter opens a new front in the talks as congressional leaders and the White House head into high-stakes negotiations with little time remaining before the August recess.

House approves NDAA with no Republican votes
Progressive amendments helped Dems earn votes from the party’s more dovish members in the face of Republican opposition

Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., talks with ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, right, before a House Armed Services Committee markup in Rayburn Building on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House on Friday approved its defense authorization bill after adopting a slew of progressive amendments that helped Democrats earn votes from the party’s more dovish members in the face of Republican opposition.

The final vote on the fiscal 2020 bill was 220-197. No Republicans supported the typically bipartisan measure that traditionally has earned more than 300 of the 435 available House votes.

House to Trump: Cough up cyberwarfare directive
Administration's decision to withhold policy doc from Congress is highly unusual, members say

The Trump administration has has made clear that the Pentagon is boosting its cyber operations — both defensive and, increasingly, offensive. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House on Thursday voted to require the White House to give Congress a cyberwarfare directive that senior members say the administration has refused to turn over for nearly a year.

The language, which would force the administration to turn over “all National Security Presidential Memorandums relating to Department of Defense operations in cyberspace,” sailed through the chamber on a voice vote as part of a package of noncontroversial amendments to the annual defense policy bill.

House votes Friday on war powers and border amendments
Republicans and progressives alike voiced deep reservations this week about the typically bipartisan measure

Friday's votes include an amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., that would repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House soldiered on through hundreds of amendments to the annual defense policy bill Thursday, but major issues — including authorization to use force and military involvement on the southern border — remain unresolved, as does the ultimate fate of the bill.

Lawmakers plan to vote on some of the most controversial amendments, as well as final passage of the measure Friday morning. Republicans and progressives alike voiced deep reservations this week about the typically bipartisan measure, and it is unclear that the last two days of debate assuaged their concerns.

Flatware gets its day in NDAA
House amendment would require Defense Department to buy from domestic manufacturers

Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s amendment is aimed at a flatware manufacturer in his upstate New York district. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the House slogs through more than 400 amendments to the annual Pentagon policy bill, debate has centered on the deployment of U.S. troops to the southern border, a potential ban on some lower-yield nuclear weapons, war authorizations and … flatware.

Yes, flatware. Cutlery. Knives and forks and spoons. One of the 439 amendments put forth would require the Defense Department to buy “stainless steel flatware” and “dinner ware” from domestic, rather than foreign, manufacturers.

Mueller hearing format gets complaints from junior Judiciary members
GOP members aired complaints that testimony from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III would be limited to 2 hours

Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., conduct a House Judiciary Committee markup May 8, 2019. Collins and other Republicans expressed concern that testimony from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III would be limited to two hours next week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee aired complaints Thursday that testimony from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III would be limited to two hours next week — meaning some members from both parties won’t get an opportunity to ask questions.

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the committee’s top Republican, was among the members who described a format that would have Mueller leave to appear before the House Intelligence Committee, a smaller panel where all members are expected to have time to ask questions.

Confirmation hearing planned Tuesday for Trump’s Defense secretary pick
The hearing has been scheduled, even though the panel is still waiting to receive his official nomination from the White House

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff, testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing March 26, 2019. Esper is expected to go before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday for a hearing on his confirmation to be the next Defense Secretary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee intends to hold a confirmation hearing for Mark Esper, the president’s pick to be the next Defense secretary, on Tuesday even though the panel is still waiting to receive his official nomination from the White House. 

The committee cannot hold Esper’s hearing until the White House delivers his formal nomination paperwork, but have tentatively planned the hearing anyway believing they will soon receive the nomination.