Afghanistan

Flake Flip on NASA Nominee Followed Senate Tumult
Vote to break filibuster of Bridenstine briefly deadlocked

The nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., to lead NASA faced a brief hiccup on the Senate floor Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A confluence of events put President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead NASA on the verge of an unexpected blockade Wednesday afternoon.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona had initially voted against limiting debate on the nomination of GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, but after almost an hour, he switched his vote.

White House Has Tepid Response to Corker-Kaine AUMF
NSC official: ‘Existing authorities are sufficient’

U.S. Army soldiers walk as a NATO helicopter flies overhead at Forward Operating Base Connelly in the Khogyani District in the eastern province of Nangarhar, Afghanistan, in 2015. (WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Updated 11:56 a.m. | The Trump administration is taking a tepid line on an authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, measure introduced Monday evening by Republican and Democratic senators, with a National Security Council official saying the president’s existing war powers are “sufficient.”

“Our position hasn’t changed,” the official said Tuesday. The 2001 AUMF, provisions in the U.S. Constitution and the force-authorization measure Congress passed and President George W. Bush made law before the 2003 Iraq war are “sufficient,” the NSC official added.

Corker Releases AUMF Without an Expiration Date
Prospects for approval uncertain with expected opposition within Foreign Relations panel

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker is not concerned that the new force authorization measure does not have a commitment from leadership for a floor vote. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The long-awaited draft authorization to set new guidelines on the 17-year-old war on terrorism was released Monday night by senators and, to the displeasure of some Democrats, it would not impose significant restrictions on military operations, such as an expiration date.

The bipartisan Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2018 would repeal and replace the 2001 AUMF, which has been increasingly criticized for its expansive justification of all kinds of military actions against extremist groups that did not exist at the time of the 9/11 attacks. The new AUMF would also repeal the 2002 authorization that enabled the 2003 Iraq War.

Trump Orders New Syria Strikes After Assad Chemical Attack
U.S. warns Assad there will be further retaliation for future chemical attacks

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile during a Trump administration strike on Syrian government targets last April. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price)

The U.S. military — together with French and British forces — struck three targets inside Syria on Friday night, just days after Bashar Assad’s government allegedly carried out a chemical attack on a Damascus suburb and amid new U.S.-Russia tensions.

In a televised address, President Donald Trump announced that strikes against Assad's forces were “now underway.”

State Activists Watching Washington Balanced-Budget Kabuki
Rapt audience for Thursday’s symbolic vote

State activists hope this week’s balanced-budget vote will bring national attention to their work. Above, staffers attend a House Financial Services Committee hearing in September. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House’s balanced-budget amendment vote Thursday may be a symbolic gesture aimed at shoring up Republicans’ conservative base in advance of the midterm elections. But it’s all too real for activists at the state level, who are watching closely and thrilled about the national spotlight on an issue that has been percolating quietly outside the Beltway.

Despite the joint resolution’s lack of support within the halls of Congress, there is still optimism that a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution will be sent to the states for ratification during the next few years.

Obscured By Ryan’s Exit, US-Russia Tensions Boil
Nuclear-armed powers on brink of conflict as Trump mulls military strike

President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit on July 7, 2017 in Hamburg. (AP Photo file photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump, with a single tweet Wednesday, ramped up tensions with the Kremlin and moved the United States and Russia closer to a military conflict than any time since the Cold War.

Yet most of Washington seemed fixated on other matters — especially Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s announcement that he will not seek re-election and the ensuing race to determine who will lead House Republicans after his departure. Then there was the president’s attack on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who stands between the Oval Office and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as Trump’s frustration with the ongoing Russia probe intensifies.

Senate Opts Against Limiting Trump’s War Powers
Measure to cease most military actions in Yemen shot down

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, here at a rally at the Capitol last year, pushed a resolution to end most U.S. military operations in Yemen. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Amid a whirlwind day of White House news, President Donald Trump on Tuesday retained the expanded war powers he inherited from his post-9/11 predecessors, as the Senate shot down a measure that would have ordered him to cease most U.S. military operations in Yemen.

Trump scored a victory on behalf of the executive branch’s ability to launch and sustain military operations in new countries without first getting authorization from Congress. Amid pressure from Republican leaders, the White House and the Pentagon, the chamber killed a resolution, 55-44, offered by a bipartisan group of senators that would have required Trump to cease all U.S. military action against groups other than al-Qaida in Yemen.

Rex Tillerson Out, Pompeo In as Secretary of State
CIA replacement would be first woman to head agency if confirmed

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testifies before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the fiscal 2018 budget request for the State Department on June 13, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Gina Haspel, deputy CIA director and a career CIA employee, is Trump’s pick for CIA director.

“He will do a fantastic job!” Trump tweeted of Pompeo. “Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”

Erik Prince to Hold Fundraiser for Rohrabacher
Comes as Trump associate faces scrutiny in Russia investigation

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., will have a fundraiser with Blackwater founder Erik Prince. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Blackwater founder Erik Prince will host a fundraiser for California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as the Republican faces a tough re-election.

The fundraiser will take place at Prince’s home in Middleburg, Virginia, according to CNN. Prince, a former Navy SEAL who is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother, interned in Rohrabacher’s Capitol Hill office in 1990.

Mast Says He Wants to Talk Assault Weapons Ban With Trump
Announced support for a ban last week in an op-ed

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republican Rep. Brian Mast said he hopes to discuss a ban on assault weapons with President Donald Trump

Mast, an Army veteran who lost both of his legs and a finger in Afghanistan, wrote an op-ed for The New York Times last week saying he supported an assault weapons ban.