OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: House panel approves $491B for Pentagon

THE TOPLINE: The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday easily passed a $491 billion spending bill for the Defense Department.

The panel became the first to axe the Air Force’s much beloved A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft fleet. Members defeated, by a show of hands, an amendment offered by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) to keep the attack plane, commonly known at the “Warthog,” flying for at least one more year.

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The committee’s markup of the massive spending measure, which took less than four hours to complete, saw lawmakers adopt a provision that would prevent the DOD from using funds to transfer more prisoners from the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The legislation is a direct response to the administration’s controversial prisoner trade that saw U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl freed in exchange for five Taliban commanders.

Committee members also junked two measures that would have reined in the longstanding authorizations for use of military force.

The spending measure, adopted by voice vote, could reach the House floor as soon as next week.

VA REFORM TO HIT SENATE FLOOR. A bipartisan bill to reform the Veterans Affairs Department’s scandal-plagued healthcare system could come up for debate as soon as Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would call up the legislation “in the next 24 hours, 48 hours at the most.”

“We’re going to take it up tomorrow,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who crafted the measure along with Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

The House passed its own VA healthcare reform bill on Tuesday, twice. The measure lets veterans visit private doctors if they cannot see an agency doctor within 14 days.

BERGDAHL DEBATE BREWS ON. The White House strongly refuted claims by GOP lawmakers that it was attempting to shift responsibility for the controversial Bergdahl prisoner trade onto Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

It also denied rumors that nearly 100 members of the administration knew about the swap in advance. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said while anywhere from 80 to 90 had access to intelligence on Taliban moves in Qatar, fewer knew about the mission to rescue Bergdahl.

Democrats appeared to close ranks behind the administration’s handling of the matter with House Democratic Whip Steny Hower (Md.) saying the administration did not break the law in the trade.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also backed away from her criticism of the White House, saying “enough is enough” and that it was time to end the debate over Bergdahl.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), though, predicted the U.S. would “pay” for releasing the Taliban commanders.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

-5 US soldiers die in ‘friendly fire’ strike

-Al Gore: Snowden not a traitor

-Rubio slams Clinton for Benghazi remarks

-Dem: Leaks come from administration, not Congress

-Feinstein backs off Bergdahl criticism

 

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