OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Pentagon, industry winners in omnibus

The Topline: Experts and lawmakers said the Pentagon was the lucky winner after the $1.012 trillion omnibus spending bill was released, citing an increase of $5 billion in wartime funding above what the Defense Department had initially requested.  

“The big winner is the Defense Department. They should be breaking out champagne in the Pentagon,” said Gordon Adams, a defense budget expert and former Clinton defense official.

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Aside from overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding, which Adams said is the “cherry on top of the dessert,” Pentagon procurement of several major weapons systems were fully funded, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, M1 Abrams Tank production and eight new ships. 

Fiscal watchdog and anti-war groups criticized the $5 billion increase in OCO funding as a “slush fund to pad the department’s budget and avoid spending reductions,” especially with the winding down of the Afghan War. 

“There is no excuse for a $5 billion increase to OCO especially in a time of belt tightening throughout the federal government,” David Williams, president of Taxpayers Protection Alliance, said in a statement Tuesday. 

Nora Bensahel, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said the Pentagon was not necessarily a winner under the new budget long-term, because sequestration was relieved only for the next two years. 

“[But] they’re quite lucky. It seemed that no one was really listening to Pentagon leaders until the last few months,” she said. 

Medically retired service members had reductions to their pensions restored, after the Bipartisan Budget Amendment reduced the retirement pay 1 percentage point below inflation for all working-age veterans. 

But veterans groups and some lawmakers were still unhappy that the overall $6 billion cut to military pensions was not reversed. 

“Things get done when there's enough people at home yelling and screaming,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, who said he was in favor of restoring the cuts. 

Overall, lawmakers said the omnibus spending bill, which is expected to pass this week, was “a good start.”

“The American people are winners, because we actually got a bipartisan, bicameral bill that directs spending. That's a huge winner,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). 

Reid to ‘wait and see’ on Iran sanctions: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he wanted to “wait and see how this plays out” before deciding whether to hold a vote on a new Iran sanctions bill.

The majority leader told reporters Tuesday that while the bill has 59 co-sponsors, it also has 10 committee chairmen opposed to it.

“While [the negotiations] are going on and while the legislative process is working forward here, I'm going to sit and be as fair an umpire as I can be,” Reid said.

“There's 10 senators who — chairmen of committees here — have said they don't want anything done," he said. "We have now ... more than 55 are co-sponsoring this. So we're going to wait and see how this plays out.”

President Obama and the White House have pressed Congress to hold off on any new sanctions while negotiations between Tehran and the six world powers are ongoing for a permanent nuclear solution.

Republicans are pressing for a vote on the measure from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

“We know there is a bipartisan majority for new Iran sanctions bill by Sen. Kirk and Chairman Menendez, a majority that quite possibly could overturn the veto,” McConnell said. 

McKeon denies he’s decided to retire: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) is denying a local report that he’s made the decision to retire.

“The Congressman has stated that he plans to make a decision shortly and will announce after that decision has been made. As of now that decision has not been made," McKeon spokeswoman Alissa Curley said via email.

A reporter at The Flash Report, a Southern California political news site, tweeted that McKeon would announce his retirement on Thursday.

Rumors have been circulating for months that McKeon is likely to retire, and he told reporters last month that he would make up his mind early in 2014, after the Defense authorization bill was done.

McKeon’s retirement would spark a race to replace him as Armed Services chairman, though even if he stays in office he is term-limited as committee chair.

White House denies ‘secret deal’ with Iran: The White House denied reports that there was a secret side agreement included in the implementation of the interim nuclear deal.

There were reports that the Iran's chief nuclear negotiator claimed Monday it had a secret side deal with the United States and other countries detailing its right to pursue nuclear research and development.

“There is no secret agreement,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “The documentation associated with the implementation arrangements tracks completely with what we have described, which are technical plans submitted to the [International Atomic Energy Agency].”

Still, the text of the agreement has not been released, and Republican senators issued a statement saying they were “deeply concerned” by the Iranian contentions.

“We call on the Obama Administration to clarify this situation immediately and ensure that members of Congress are fully and promptly informed about its nuclear diplomacy with Iran,” Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.

“If true, these reports only add greater urgency to the calls from an increasing number of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to pass new bipartisan sanctions legislation as soon as possible.”

 

In Case You Missed It:

— Dem: No vote needed yet on sanctions

— McKeon: Obama should tout successes in Afghanistan

— Schiff unveils NSA reform bill

— Man arrested for sending F-35 data to Iran

— Defense bill reverses pension cuts for disabled veterans

 

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