OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Obama pulls no punches on Petraeus, Rice and Libya

“At this point, I think that the standing committees of the House, whether they be the Oversight Committee or the Intelligence Committee, are working diligently on these issues,” Boehner said. “And at this point, I think that’s appropriate.”

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Armed Services Committee chief Carl Levin (D-Mich.) also told reporters that they opposed a Select Committee.

Sequester standoff: Congressional Democrats laid down some serious markers in the looming fight with Republicans to avoid massive, across-the-board budget spending cuts under the White House's sequestration plan. 

On Wednesday, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said there would be "zero chance" of Democratic support for any sequester deal that did not include massive cuts to military spending.

"There will be significant ... insistence" from House Democrats to include cuts that "will fall equally" on defense and non-defense in any alternative sequestration deal, Frank told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday.  

The military cuts backed by Frank and others to duck the sequester would fall along the lines of those outlined in a new report by the left-leaning think tank Project on Defense Alternatives. The report, released on Wednesday, calls for increased investment in areas such as counterterrorism operations and DOD-led efforts to limit nuclear weapons proliferation.

But the report, drafted by PDA co-chairman Carl Conetta, also calls for a "reduced requirement" in U.S. nuclear arsenal as well as other conventional warfare operations, "which is the bulk" of DOD's budget. 

Those demands come on the heels of Senate Democrats saying that no sequester deal with Republicans would be possible in the upper chamber unless that deal included stimulus spending. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ chief political strategist, said deficit reduction and a federal stimulus package are not mutually exclusive. “You can have a 10-year deficit-reduction package that encourages a way to get the economy moving more quickly in the first year or so,” he said.

The Pentagon is facing a $500 billion across-the-board cut under sequestration, set to go into place in January. The reductions, included in last year's debt-reduction deal, were triggered when a congressional supercommittee failed to trim $1.2 billion from the national deficit. 

Reid commits to NDAA: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that the Senate will begin working on the defense authorization bill after the Thanksgiving recess.

Reid said on the floor Wednesday that the bill should have an open amendment process, a move that had been unclear due to the lame-duck time crunch. “We need to get this bill done,” Reid said.

The bill would be brought up in the Senate this week, Reid said, but the work on amendments for the bill would begin when Congress returns.

Rules of engagement: The White House has pulled the trigger on executive action that authorizes the Pentagon to begin conducting so-called "cyber operations" against state and non-state actors in the cyber realm. 

Those operations, according to a White House source, would fall outside the department's efforts to defend military and civilian networks. The executive action, dubbed Presidential Policy Directive 20, was signed in mid-October and practically gives DOD the de facto rules of engagement for offensive cyber operations. 

The new directive also closes a critical policy gap at the DOD on cyber warfare that Congress failed to close earlier this year. 

In August, White House chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan told reporters that the administration was considering exercising presidential authority to impose cybersecurity mandates after lawmakers failed to adopt legislation to implement those measures. A cybersecurity bill co-sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) was shot down late Wednesday night.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

— Petraeus to testify on Benghazi raid 

— Air Force wraps up sexual abuse investigation at Lackland

— Congress urged to address Chinese cyber threat 

— Panetta defends Gen. Allen amid Petraeus scandal

— GOP presses for special panel on Libya