OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Cheney meets with congressional Republicans on sequestration

While Cheney declined to comment on the specifics of his meetings with GOP leaders, when asked what he was doing back on Capitol Hill after all these years, the former representative replied: "Just visiting some friends." 

McCain goes sarcastic on Cheney: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is typically chatty with reporters, but he wasn’t too interested Tuesday in talking about what former Vice President Dick Cheney told the Senate Republican conference at its weekly lunch. Surrounded by at least a dozen reporters as he exited the room, McCain quickly said: “I don’t want to talk about what happens at lunch, c’mon.” When the questions continued, McCain turned to his sarcastic side. “We just talked. It was wonderful, one of the greatest experiences of my life,” McCain said dryly. “We talked about national defense and national security. It was wonderful.”

Sequester puts DOD deals at risk: While the Department of Defense is not yet planning for how to handle the possible $500 billion in across-the-board cuts to its coffers, Pentagon officials continue to voice their concerns over the cuts under sequestration. DOD contracts financed with fiscal 2012 dollars are not at risk, DOD spokesman George Little told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday. But all other Pentagon procurement deals reached after Sept. 30, the official end of FY '12 funding, are up in the air at this point, he said.

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"We are obviously assessing the potential impacts of sequestration; we are not planning for sequestration," Little said. "But clearly we do need to take a look at contracts and take that into account should sequestration go into effect."

Defense bills hit the floor: Two defense-related bills are coming to the House floor on Wednesday. First, the House will take up a measure requiring the Obama administration to explain how the sequestration cuts would be implemented. Republicans are hoping that measure can be fast-tracked and pass on a suspension vote. A similar measure has passed the Senate as an amendment to the Farm Bill.

The House will then take up the $608 billion defense appropriations bill, which will require multiple days of floor time. There are numerous policy battles looming in the bill, including the topline figure of the bill, which is $3 billion higher than the Obama administration request. One issue that’s generated a lot of heat thus far is a proposal to ban military sports sponsorships, including NASCAR. The two lawmakers pushing the measure, Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), are holding a press conference on the ban Wednesday.

Kerry has not begun to fight: Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was nowhere near ready to declare the Law of the Sea Treaty sunk after Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) corralled 34 Republicans to block the treaty, enough to beat the two-thirds majority required. In fact, Kerry suggested Tuesday that the fight has yet to begin.

“That fight’s not even joined yet,” Kerry told The Hill Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot of room to go yet.”

Kerry has said that the vote on the sea treaty will not occur until after the November election, giving him plenty of time to twist arms on the treaty. Of course, it also gives DeMint time to get more support on his side and build a cushion. Kerry suggested in a statement Monday that Republicans will ultimately back the treaty because it’s supported by groups like the Chamber of Commerce.

Defense industry chiefs head to House: A slew of defense industry heavy-hitters will make their case against defense cuts under sequestration during a House Armed Services hearing scheduled for Wednesday. Lockheed Martin’s Bob Stevens, EADS North America’s Sean O’Keefe, Pratt and Whitney’s David Hess and Williams-Pyro’s Della Williams are all scheduled to appear. Two weeks after the industry leaders testify, the committee is holding a hearing on sequestration with acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Stevens has already been a vocal critic of sequestration, and he threatened that his company might send out layoff notices to all 100,000-plus employees right before the November election due to sequestration. On Tuesday, the Aerospace Industries Association released a report claiming the cuts would result in the loss of 600,000 federal jobs. Another 1 million jobs across the defense sector would be scrapped if the automatic cuts go into effect in January. Top defense industry officials are already preparing to issue termination notices to their workforces, in anticipation of the defense cuts going into effect.


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