Overnight Defense: White House sees 'tentative' deal on defense spending | Trump asks judge to delay order on transgender recruits | VA reverses plan to cut program helping homeless vets

Overnight Defense: White House sees 'tentative' deal on defense spending | Trump asks judge to delay order on transgender recruits | VA reverses plan to cut program helping homeless vets
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THE TOPLINE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpPoll: Both parties need to do more on drug prices Senate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump White House: Trump will delay steel tariffs for EU, six countries MORE and congressional leaders reached a "tentative agreement" on Thursday to raise defense spending levels as part of a year-end government funding package, according to a White House official.

The leaders were "moving toward an agreement" on nondefense spending after a meeting in the Oval Office designed to resolve the contentious funding battle, the official said.

The official requested anonymity to discuss private conversations between Trump and the top four congressional leaders. 


Democrats don't have nearly as optimistic a view of the outcome of Thursday's meeting, however.

Democratic leaders insist there cannot be a deal on the defense spending number without an agreement in tandem on spending for non-defense programs, a position they have long held.

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump GOP senator threatened to hold up bill over provision to honor late political rival: report Paul: Shutting down government not my goal MORE (R-Ky.) had a less rosy assessment of how much progress had been made.

Asked if negotiators were any closer to a deal on the spending caps, McConnell replied, "I wouldn't say that."

Another person familiar with the meeting said Democrats were willing to go along with $54 billion in annual defense spending, as long as it was "matched with an equal increase on [the] nondefense side."

"That's been the primary point of debate thus far in the talks, and it was in the meeting," said the source.

"The president had a constructive meeting with congressional leadership and Defense Secretary [James] Mattis, and the parties agreed on the need for eliminating the defense sequester to deal with the grave national security threats we face," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. 

Such an agreement could be a breakthrough in the government funding debate on Capitol Hill. 

The Hill's Jordan Fabian and Alexander Bolton have more here.


PENTAGON OFFICIALS PRESS FOR FULLY-FUNDED 2018 BUDGET: The Pentagon on Thursday made clear Defense officials are not pleased with anything less than a fully-funded budget for fiscal year 2018, even as the Senate passed a two-week stop-gap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

Defense Department Comptroller David Norquist told reporters at the Pentagon that even a two-week funding bill, which freezes spending at last year's levels, would delay vital national security programs.

The funding measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), is an extension of the CR that has been in place for several months and was due to run out Friday at midnight.

Norquist pointed to the Pentagon's efforts to build up diminished stockpiles of bombs and other munitions - used to fight terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa – which would be hindered under a stop-gap spending measure.

Read the rest here.


And Jordain Carney has more about how the House and Senate passed the continuing resolution and avoided a government shutdown here.


WHITE HOUSE ASKS FOR EMERGENCY STAY ON ACCEPTING TRANSGENDER MILITARY RECRUITS BY JAN. 1: The Trump administration is asking a federal judge to delay a requirement to begin accepting transgender recruits to the military on Jan. 1.

"Specifically, Defendants request that the Court stay the portion of its preliminary injunction requiring Defendants to begin accessing transgender individuals into the military on January 1, 2018, pending a decision by the D.C. Circuit on Defendants' appeal," the government wrote in a motion filed late Wednesday.

The administration and the plaintiffs have asked for a decision by noon Monday.

In October, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blocked President Trump's ban on transgender troops while a lawsuit against it works its way through court.

Last month, after a motion by the Trump administration, Kollar-Kotelly issued a follow-up ruling clarifying the earlier one that said the military must accept transgender recruits by Jan. 1, as it had planned to do prior to Trump's ban.

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has more here.


VA REVERSES PLAN TO CUT HOMELESS VETERAN HOUSING PROGRAM AFTER OUTRAGE: The Department of Veterans Affairs has reversed course on a plan to essentially end a $460 million program that helps provide housing to homeless veterans after facing blowback when news of the decision broke. 

VA Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinWhite House aides planned to announce McMaster with other departures: report Bannon: If Kelly leaves White House, Trump won't replace him Kimmel: Trump goes through Cabinet members like cheeseburgers, hair spray MORE said in a statement that "there will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs," and the department "will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program," which allows veterans to seek health care at facilities outside the VA.

Shulkin also said that over the next six months he will "solicit input from our local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most."

"Based on that input we will come forward with proposals for fiscal year 2019 on how to improve the targeting of our homeless program funding," he added.

Politico reported Wednesday that the VA told advocates and state officials in a Dec. 1 phone call that the program -- which provides housing vouchers to veterans via the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) -- would be drastically cut.

Read more here. 


WHITE HOUSE WALKS BACK REMARKS THAT US ATHLETES MIGHT NOT PARTICIPATE IN 2018 OLYMPICS: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders quickly walked back her remarks, after she suggested at a briefing Thursday that no decision had been made to send U.S. athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Sanders tweeted that the U.S. looked forward to participating in the Olympics and was engaged in making sure that venues were safe minutes after her briefing ended.  

"The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues," Sanders wrote on Twitter.

At the briefing, she said "no official decision has been made" on sending athletes to the games. She added that a decision would be made "closer to" the games. 

The 2018 Olympics start Feb. 9, and will take place in Pyeongchang, roughly 50 miles from the demilitarized zone with North Korea.

Read the rest here.



Gen. John 'Jay' Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command will speak at the Mitchell Space Breakfast Series at 8 a.m. at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington.

Nuclear and national security experts will hold a discussion on whether the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty has a future at 10 a.m. at the Brookings Institute in Washington.

The former NATO assistant secretary, Gen. Sorin Ducaru, will hold a conversation on emerging challenges in cybersecurity at 12 p.m. at the Hudson Institute in Washington.



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