OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Senate vote on defense bill expected by end of July

Both Levin and his counterpart in the House, Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), want to get the defense bill done as soon as they can. But Levin is running into limited floor time in asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to take up a bill that would eat up a big chunk of it.

Raptor rhetoric: The Air Force and Congress seem to be setting up for a dogfight over the service's continued problems with its fleet of F-22 Raptors. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-lll.) on Tuesday raised the notion of calling service leaders up to Capitol Hill to testify after news broke that two more pilots had suffered near accidents due to oxygen deprivation while flying the jets.

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"I am not [quite] ready to come to that conclusion yet ... [but] my patience is wearing thin," Warner told reporters Tuesday in response to a question on whether he or Kinzinger would call hearings on the incidents. 

Last Friday, an F-22 pilot based at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii signaled an "in-flight emergency" during a routine mission aboard the Raptor after the pilot began to experience "restricted airflow" from the Raptor's on-board oxygen system. A second incident occurred on May 31 when an F-22 crash-landed onto the runway at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., without deploying its landing gear — an error that could have been the result of the pilot suffering from oxygen deprivation. 

The two incidents took place after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta placed a number of restrictions on F-22 operations and ordered the Air Force to provide monthly updates on how they were resolving oxygen issues aboard the fighter.

"I thought we were on to something ... but this is an issue that has not been tackled," according to Kinzinger. 

Hawkish senators unimpressed with Russia gesture: Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) were not moved by Russia’s announcement Monday that it would be suspending all new arms sales to Syria. The hawkish pair, who have been the most vocal in Congress calling for more action in Syria, dismissed the notion that Russia was changing its tune toward Syria and President Bashar Assad. Graham said that Moscow “winks and nods” about weapons that wind up in Syria from non-government sources.

“I don’t believe the Russians are reliable members of the international community,” Graham said. “If they’re not going to vote for a resolution that would basically push Assad out, why not believe they won’t help him quietly?” McCain agreed, saying that the announcement “sounds kind of typical.”

White House talks tough on Iran: The inclusion of Iran in any potential Syrian peace deal is a non-starter in the eyes of the Obama administration. White House press secretary Jay Carney slammed the idea, argued for by United Nations-Arab Envoy Kofi Annan, during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday.

“I don’t think anybody with a straight face could argue that Iran has had a positive impact on developments in Syria,” Carney told reporters. 

His comments came hours after Annan said Tehran's participation would be key to locking in a new peace plan he had negotiated with Syrian President Bashar Assad over the weekend.

"Iran has a role to play. And my presence here explains that I believe in that," Annan told reporters in Tehran after his meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

A previous peace plan brokered by Annan in March has largely been considered a failure, particularly after U.N. observers were pulled out of the country after being attacked by Syrian forces. But on Tuesday, Annan said his new "approach," which was crafted with Assad during a visit to Damascus on Monday, required help from the Iranian government.

First leaks hearing: The House Judiciary Committee is holding the first hearing on national security leaks since the widespread outrage that occurred last month over a series of intelligence leaks. The hearing, titled “National Security Leaks and the Law,” will feature four experts from outside the government.

It’s unlikely to be the last congressional look at the leaks: the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees have discussed a joint hearing where senior administration officials will likely testify.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

—Massachusetts man pleads guilty to Pentagon bombing plot

—Graham presses Romney to weigh in on Syria, Arab Spring

—Senators push for terrorist tag on Haqqani Network 

—Army drops NASCAR deal 


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