OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: House unveils CR with Defense appropriations

The disagreements will be over other federal agencies.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said she was “disappointed” with the CR bill because it would “fund the remainder of the federal government’s critical services and investments for the American people under FY2012 plans and spending levels, enacted 15-18 months ago.”

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And Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has been advocating full appropriations bills for the entire government, instead of just Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Collins, Udall introduce sequester ‘flexibility’ bill: Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) also introduced legislation Monday, in order to give the executive branch more flexibility to implement the sequester cuts.

The measure provides more authority to the Obama administration to implement the across-the-board spending cuts, while giving the House and Senate Appropriations committees the ability to review and approve the proposals. The bill also allows for the ability to start new projects under a full-year continuing resolution.

A Republican-led “flexibility” bill was considered by the Senate last week, but it was rejected in a 38-62 vote.

Brennan vote set for Tuesday: After multiple delays due to concerns about everything from armed drone strikes to last September's terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan will finally get a vote on his bid to become the next CIA director.

Senate Intelligence Committee members will decide whether Brennan will become the nation's top spy during a closed-panel hearing set for Tuesday. 

A number of Senate Republicans are already predicting a much smoother confirmation for Brennan than his counterpart at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

"I am sure there is going to be some opposition, but I do not think it is going to be as intense as it was with Secretary Hagel," Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told The Hill last week.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said there were very few parallels between GOP opposition to Hagel's confirmation and Senate Republicans' frustrations over the Brennan nomination. Those differences, he added, all but guarantee Brennan will eventually be named CIA chief by the full Senate.

The Senate Intelligence Committee had delayed the Brennan nomination twice since his confirmation hearings before the panel on Feb. 7.

After testifying twice before Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) panel, once during open session and again behind closed doors, committee members had planned to take up Brennan's bid for the CIA on Feb. 14.

However, several committee members requested that vote be postponed. The delay was called so the panel could gather additional information on Brennan's role in the White House's armed drone program, as well as details on his role in the administration's response to last September's terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

Generals’ sessions begin: Starting Tuesday, the House and Senate Armed Services committees are beginning their annual round of posture hearings, calling in the top U.S. officers from the various regional commanders to Capitol Hill.

These hearings are traditionally used by DOD leaders and military brass to defend their budget proposals, which are usually sent to Congress by mid-February.

But with sequestration now in effect, and a fiscal 2014 Pentagon budget not expected to hit Capitol Hill until April, the hearings will be focused more on the current fiscal pressures facing the Pentagon and less of the department's long-term plans.

On Tuesday, the heads of U.S. Pacific Command and Strategic Command will appear before the House Armed Services Committee, to testify on DOD plans to shift its massive military presence from the Mideast to the Asia-Pacific region.

Top military commanders from Central Command and Special Operations Command will go before the Senate Defense panel on Tuesday to relay the military's plans on efforts to end the war in Afghanistan and what a possible U.S. presence could look like in the country once U.S. combat forces leave in 2014.

The following day, Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis and Adm. William McRaven, head of Special Operations Command, will join Transportation Command chief Gen. William Fraser to testify before the House defense panel.

Fraser, who oversees all major airlift and ground transportation operations for the U.S. military, will likely provide specifics on how American and allied forces plan to move the mountain of materiel and equipment out of Afghanistan over the next year.

On Thursday, House members will shift their focus to American-led operations at Northern Command and Southern Command. The latter U.S. command is expected to take a tremendous capability hit under sequestration.

Finally, Africa Command will take center stage during Thursday's Senate Armed Services hearing, where outgoing command chief Gen. Carter Ham will likely lay out details on American counterterrorism operations on the continent.

Hagel to meet Israel’s Barak at Pentagon: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will host Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon Tuesday in his first meeting with a foreign leader.

Hosting Barak has some significance, as Hagel was criticized for his views toward Israel during his bruising confirmation, particularly his remarks that the “Jewish lobby” intimidated lawmakers.

Speaking at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in Washington on Sunday, Barak welcomed Hagel to his new role as Pentagon chief.

“I wish Secretary Hagel all the best in his new role," Barak said. "As Secretary of Defense he will no doubt serve his country with the same pride and honor with which he served both on the battlefield and in Congress."

— Erik Wasson contributed.


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— IAEA: Iran not providing nuclear access


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