OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: GOP battles White House on leaks

McCain and Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) called for a special counsel on Tuesday, and other Republicans have joined them.

Democrats have not signed onto calls for a special counsel — not yet, anyway — as Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she wasn’t sure yet if she thought that was necessary.

ADVERTISEMENT
The FBI has launched an investigation into the latest leaks, confirmed by the Intelligence Committee heads Thursday, and FBI Director Robert Mueller was one of two senior Obama administration officials to meet with lawmakers about the leaks.

While many Republicans have not backed McCain’s charge that politics played a role in the classified leaks, they might not be as hesitant to call for a special counsel in the coming weeks to investigate where the leaks came from.

“I don't think we can just let the White House investigate itself or take its word for it that it is not the source of these leaks,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Thursday on CNN “Starting Point” as he signed onto the special counsel investigation.

1 million jobs: A new study released by the Bipartisan Policy Center on Thursday found that 1 million jobs would be lost due to sequestration in both defense and non-defense sectors. The topline figure is the same as a study released last year on sequestration by the Aerospace Industries Association, a leading defense trade group.

While the BPC did not produce its study to advocate against sequestration like the aerospace trade group, the 1 million jobs figure is poised to become the new mantra for defense proponents trying to undo the automatic cuts before they take effect in January 2013. Lawmakers pushing to stop sequestration haven’t gotten very far on national security arguments alone, but jobs arguments have the potential to resonate in the election.

There was one bit of good news for defense hawks in the BPC study, however, as the center predicted there was no way that lawmakers allow war funding to remain affected by sequestration, which the Office of Management and Budget said would be the case. Republicans were angered at the development, which was first reported by Bloomberg News last week, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said that Obama was holding the troops “liable for sequestration.”

Going nuclear: The Pentagon and Energy Department have largely stayed out of the way of the partisan back-and-forth bickering over secret deals on Russian nukes and East Coast missile shields that has cluttered the hearing rooms on Capitol Hill. Next Tuesday, top defense and energy officials will jump into the fray during a Senate Armed Services hearing on the future of the nuclear complex. Those on the right claim the complex is in major need of an overhaul, noting the last time America's nuclear weapon systems were revamped, the Cold War was in full swing.

But to Democrats and the White House, that era is over. Stockpiles are set to drop down under the New START treaty and the United States is facing a much different slate of national security threats than it did in the 1950s. That debate will be front and center during the Senate hearing, with the ever-present shadow of looming defense cuts hanging over the heads of the witnesses and lawmakers alike.

Military action in Syria: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has spent much of the past few months putting the screws to the Obama administration over its inaction in Syria. The dynamic duo of McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) spent Thursday afternoon chewing over the subject on the Senate floor. Unless something changes, McCain is likely to renew his criticisms on June 18, when the senator takes the podium at the conservative American Enterprise Institute to discuss his increasingly favorite subject. 

At the keynote, which was announced Thursday, McCain will participate in a six-man panel to debate why warplanes haven't yet wiped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad off the map yet. The administration has argued a diplomatic solution is possible but opportunity is beginning to slip away. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey said on Thursday he couldn't draft a war plan even if he wanted to, because there's no clear consensus of what the goal of that plan will be. There's a strong chance McCain and company have some ideas of what a Pentagon plan should include: “Do any options short of military force remain to end bloodshed in Syria?” the event description asks.


In case you missed it

— UN wants to investigate drone strikes

— Lawmakers vow to tighten leak laws

— McCain, Lieberman slam White House on Syria

— Kerry, McCain disagree on publishing cyberattack story

— U.S. is growing impatient with Pakistan on terror


Please send tips and comments to Jeremy Herb, jherb@thehill.com, and Carlo Munoz, cmunoz@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @DEFCONHill, @JHerbTheHill, @CMunozTheHill