OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: White House sequestration report heads to Congress

Republicans criticized the Obama administration for missing the deadline last week, as they have attacked the president for not having a plan to reverse sequestration.

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They picked up the criticism once again Thursday during debate on Rep. Allen West’s (R-Fla.) bill to require Obama to submit a sequester alternative. When asked about the criticism, Carney said it was “remarkable” that Republicans in Congress would complain about the White House not doing its job “when in fact Congress has failed to do its job and that is why the sequester still looms out there.”

“So Congress needs to act, and it can act,” Carney said.

Petraeus comes to Capitol Hill: The CIA director made the rounds on Capitol Hill on Thursday, briefing lawmakers on ongoing efforts by the U.S. intelligence community in the aftermath of Wednesday's deadly consulate attack in Libya. 

David Petraeus briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door, 90-minute meeting that had been previously scheduled but took on a new significance in the wake of the attacks Tuesday night that left U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others dead.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who sits in on Intelligence Committee briefings as ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, didn’t discuss the situation in Libya, but reiterated that he thought it would be “incredibly foolish” to cut aid to Libya or Egypt as a result of the violence. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) emphasized after the meeting the importance of keeping a careful eye on the rest of the region and making sure things don’t escalate further.

“One thing we know for sure is we should expect all the leaders in that region to condemn in the strongest possible terms this violence, and do everything within their capabilities to prevent it from spreading,” Rubio said.

Arrests made: A day after the brutal assault on the American consulate in Libya ended with the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Libyan authorities arrested four people accused of helping to coordinate the attack. 

"Four men are in custody and we are interrogating them because they are suspected of helping instigate the events at the U.S. consulate," Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis Sharif told Reuters on Thursday. It remains unclear as to what role the four accused individuals played in the attack, but the quick arrest of the suspects indicates a willingness by Tripoli to assist the U.S. investigation into the strike. 

Stevens and three other American citizens were killed after Libyan militants stormed the consulate as part of an anti-American protest that sprung up in the town of Benghazi. During the four-hour gun battle between consulate security and the Libyan attackers, the gunmen lobbed rocket-propelled grenades at the U.S. diplomatic outpost and raked the facility with automatic rifle fire. 

The level of violence and coordination displayed during the attack led many on Capitol Hill to believe the strike was orchestrated by al Qaeda elements inside Libya. Benghazi is home to the al Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Senior administration officials told reporters on Thursday the attack was carried out by unknown Libyan militants, but would not confirm the raid was the work of the terror group or its affiliates. 

GOP lawmakers tell Obama to meet with Netanyahu: Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) has a letter signed by 128 House Republicans telling President Obama to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after reports surfaced that the White House denied a request to meet with Netanyahu. “We are astounded by your refusal to grant this request to one of our closest allies at such a critical time for that region,” the letter states.

The White House denies there was any snub, saying that scheduling differences would prevent any meeting between the two leaders, who spoke Tuesday evening for an hour by phone. Tensions between the leaders have been on the rise after Netanyahu complained the United States refused to set red lines for Iran.

Valor preserved, temporarily: The House passed two defense-related bills Thursday: one to update the Stolen Valor Act and another to require President Obama to submit an alternative to replace sequestration. The two bills are likely to face different fates in the Senate, however.

The Stolen Valor bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), would make it illegal to lie about military awards for financial gain — a change from a 2006 law that was struck down by the Supreme Court this year. There are two versions of the legislation in the Senate from Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.), and it’s likely one of the bills will pass this year, although it may not be until after the election.

The sequester bill, however, is dead on arrival in the Senate, as Democrats say it’s a partisan bill, and the real roadblock on sequestration is GOP refusal to give on tax increases. House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called the bill “a charade."

Anchors aweigh: The Navy is making final preparations for a large-scale maritime combat exercise next week, scheduled to take place in Iran's backyard. 

American carrier strike groups, led by the USS Stennis and USS Eisenhower, will lead the American naval contingent during the multinational naval wargame, which is designed to hone the Navy's mine-hunting skills in the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz. Naval forces from other U.S. allies, including the United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, are expected to have a sizable presence during the multilateral exercise. 

The exercise is scheduled to wrap up on Sept. 27, to coincide with President Obama's visit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington. 

In March, Iranian military leaders announced the country would begin arming its warships patrolling thestraits with short-range missiles. With an effective range of between 200 to 300km, those missiles would be able to strike targets from Straits of Hormuz to the Sea of Oman from the Iranian coastline, Tehran claimed at the time. 

In response, Navy commanders have also beefed up their Persian Gulf fleet, to defend against any potential Iranian attack. Those upgrades included doubling the number of its mine-hunting ships patrolling the region and outfitting U.S. warships powerful Gatling guns. The additional armaments are ideal for taking out the sea mines and small, fast-moving patrol boats the Iranian navy commonly uses to patrol the strait. 


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

— Air Force makes case for F-22 fix 

— GOP take aim at Obama foreign policy after Libya

— Ex-SEAL among dead in Benghazi raid 

— Iran strike would lead to all-out war


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