OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Senators ‘hope’ for sequestration solution

Levin said he was currently focused on the revenue side of the ledger, finding a way to reform taxes to increase revenues that Republicans would accept.

McCain, meanwhile, placed the blame on President Obama for not doing more to avoid the cuts.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he told reporters. “Again, there’s no presidential leadership. He said during the campaign it’s not going to happen. Well, where are you, Mr. President?”

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McCain’s successor as top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), said that he felt the issue was on lawmakers’ radar screen.

“I think a lot of people are talking about sequestration, particularly those who are concerned about the military portion,” Inhofe said. “I don’t know of too many single tracks around here.”

Hearings under way in Guantánamo: Monday was a busy day for attorneys involved in pretrial hearings against the five 9/11 co-conspirators being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay.

Much of the day's proceedings delved deep into the legal minutiae and legislative interpretations that have come to define the long pre-trial process before U.S. prosecutors can make their case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 defendants.

Defense attorneys spent an hour or so debating with the prosecution over whether the defendants themselves had to verbally agree to proposed changes to their defense teams. In the end, Army Judge Col. James Pohl required Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and co-conspirator Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak bin 'Attash to say whether they approved the changes. Both men declined to comment

Pohl brought Monday’s hearing to an early end so the attorneys could debate in classified session whether details of the so-called CIA-run “black sites” had to be preserved.

Defense attorneys are pressing for the judge to allow discussion of the black sites in open court for the first time.

The Hill’s Carlo Muñoz is covering the 9/11 pre-trial hearings all this week from Guantánamo Bay, so check back on DEFCON Hill for the latest developments.

Senators stick to party line on Hagel: As former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) confirmation hearing nears, no senators have yet broken party lines.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), a freshman on the Armed Services Committee, was the latest Democrat to endorse Hagel as the next Defense secretary. She said Monday that she would support him following a one-on-one meeting with the nominee.

A dozen Democrats say they will vote for Hagel’s confirmation, and at least four more have signaled they will back him. A half-dozen Republicans say they are against him, and another three say they're almost there.

That leaves a good chunk of the Senate that’s at least waiting until Thursday’s hearings occur before deciding.

Democrats control the chamber 55-45, meaning that Republicans can only stop Hagel’s confirmation with at least six defections or a filibuster, a move no senator has said he or she would take yet. Democrats can assure his confirmation with five GOP cross-overs.

McCain is one of the key Republicans who remains on the fence, although he responded “not really” to a question Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” whether his meeting with Hagel allayed his concerns.

McCain declined to tell reporters again Monday about his meeting with Hagel or what sort of questions he plans to ask at the confirmation hearing, which will be his first in six years where he is not the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

“I can’t tell you about our conversations,” McCain said, before pausing and adding: “Let him tell you.” 

Liberal groups hold forum ahead of hearing: Two newly partnered liberal national security think tanks are holding an event Tuesday discussing President Obama’s new national security team: former Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense secretary, Secretary of State nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and CIA Director nominee John Brennan.

The forum, hosted by the Truman Project and Center for National Security Policy, will feature Doug Wilson, former assistant secretary for public affairs at the Pentagon, and Charles Stevenson of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

While the Truman Project endorsed Hagel for Defense secretary, a spokeswoman said that the event was not intended as advocacy for Hagel ahead of his hearing. It was timed to coincide between the Kerry and Hagel hearings, the spokeswoman said, when interest is at its highest.


In Case You Missed It:

— State shutters office working to close Gitmo

— Judge denies CIA interrogation details in open court

— BAE Systems to lay off 300 workers

— Explosion report at Iran nuclear facility ‘not credible

— Defense industry still ‘hopeful’ on avoiding sequester


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