OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: House wades into Defense spending bill

Amash’s amendment will be the first opportunity to lawmakers to weigh in on the NSA’s spying programs since its massive phone and Internet collection activities were revealed two months ago.

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The decision to allow a vote on the measure sparked a lobbying scramble on Tuesday.

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander made himself available to lawmakers in a classified briefing Tuesday in order to answer questions on the NSA’s phone and Internet surveillance programs.

Seven Republican House committee chairmen sent a “Dear Colleague” letter urging a no vote on the measure.

And both the House and Senate Intelligence Committee leaders also went on the offensive, speaking against Amash’s amendment on Tuesday. Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) took the rare step of weighing in on a House debate.

Amash’s amendment has the support of liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans, who have teamed up to go up against the leadership from both parties.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that he hoped the measure would not pass, but also said Democrats weren’t whipping against it.

The NSA amendments, as well as those on Syria and Egypt, will receive a vote as early as Wednesday, as they are last up on the list of 100 amendments.

House makes its way through amendments: The House had worked its way through roughly 40 of the 100 amendments made in order by Tuesday evening, as it looked to finish work on the Pentagon spending bill this week.

The House passed the rule to the bill on Tuesday afternoon — amid complaints from Democrats that it wasn’t an open amendment process — and got to work on the amendments that were approved by the panel.

In the opening hours of debate, the House voted down Democratic amendments that would have eliminated all language in the bill that prohibits the release or transfer of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and cut funding for a potential third missile interceptor site on the East Coast.

The House also voted to prohibit the Pentagon from spending any money to enlist those convicted of sexual assault, along with several other amendments.

McCain drops threat to hold Dempsey: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) changed his mind about trying to block the confirmation of Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, saying Tuesday that he wouldn’t hold the nomination despite his complaints about Dempsey.

McCain was angry with Dempsey at his confirmation hearing last week, after Dempsey would not give his opinion on whether he thought any U.S. military action was better than doing nothing in Syria.

Dempsey provided an assessment of potential military options to Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Monday, in which he expressed caution about unintended consequences and the billion-dollar costs associated with U.S. action.

McCain blasted Dempsey’s response Thursday, saying Dempsey was taking the position it was practically impossible to intervene.

Nevertheless, McCain said he wasn’t going to stop President Obama from picking his advisers. He even told reporters that he hadn’t actually threatened to block Dempsey’s confirmation last week. 

Durbin holding Guantánamo hearing: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will be holding a hearing Wednesday on closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay in the first congressional hearing on the issue since 2009.

Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, is holding the hearing in his Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

The hearing comes two months after Obama vowed to make a new effort to close the detention facility, which was one of his first pledges as president.

There’s still congressional opposition to closing the prison in both parties, however, as evidenced by Tuesday’s amendment vote that was defeated.

Durbin’s hearing has two panels: House Armed Services ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) will be testifying on the first, and a slew of retired military, think tank and advocacy officials are on the second.

In Case You Missed It:

— U.S. aids Iraqi manhunt

— McCain: Pentagon rifts on Afghan plan

— Intel leaders slam Amash amendment

— Lockheed profits rise despite sequester

— House advances Pentagon spending bill


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