Week ahead: National security to dominate lame-duck’s final days

With only days left before the 113th Congress adjourns for good, lawmakers are racing to wrap up work on major national security issues, including funding for the military.

House Republicans on Monday will unveil a spending package that would fund most of the government, including the Defense Department, through September, while providing short-term funding for the Homeland Security Department.

The “cromnibus” will include money for the military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).


Congress must pass a new spending bill by midnight Friday, or the government will shut down. It is unclear how the Senate, which did not pass any appropriations bills, will respond to the House’s spending plan. House Democrats and the White House are waiting to see what is in the package before taking a position on it.

Senators, meanwhile, are looking to pass the defense authorization bill that passed the House this week. The $585 billion measure was negotiated by leaders of the Armed Services committees in both chambers.

Conservatives, such as Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE (R-Texas) and Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.), have called on their colleagues to block the defense bill because provisions were tucked into it that would create new parks and wilderness areas.

One wild card that could upend the congressional schedule is the long-awaited release of the CIA’s report on enhanced interrogations during the George W. Bush administration.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech MORE (D-Calif.) confirmed that the report would be out “next week,” but has faced pressure from administration officials, most notably Kerry, to delay the release.

The findings of the probe, which have been hotly disputed by the CIA, will be hotly debated. Democrats say the investigation details the use of torture, while Republicans reject that conclusion in a dissenting report.

On Tuesday morning, the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues will hold two panels on ISIS and the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria caused by months of intense fighting.

The full Foreign Relations panel aims to use the last days of the lame-duck session to finally draw up a measure authorizing the use of military force against ISIS.

The debate over such legislation has raged for months as Democrats and Republicans have argued the Obama administration does not have the legal authority to carry out the fight against the terror group, despite White House claims to the contrary.

The committee will convene Tuesday afternoon to hear from Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryA lesson of the Trump, Tlaib, Omar, Netanyahu affair Trump's winning weapon: Time The Memo: O'Rourke looks to hit reset button MORE to get the process underway, the panel announced late Sunday. The hearing had originally been slated for Monday afternoon.

The initial session was supposed to be followed by a closed-door briefing from administration officials but it is unclear if or when that will happen now.

A full committee markup on an authorization on the use of military force (AUMF) is expected Thursday, according to the panel's web site.

It remains unclear whether the full Senate will vote on the AUMF before the congressional session ends.

Also Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Armed Services Committee is slated to consider a host of nominations, including Elissa Slotkin to be assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs at the Pentagon.

That hearing was also originally supposed to take place on Monday.

Incoming Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Anti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid McCain's family, McCain Institute to promote #ActsOfCivility in marking first anniversary of senator's death MORE (R-Ariz.) has said publicly he plans to oppose Slotkin’s nomination, calling her “totally unqualified.”

Wednesday morning, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will meet to question whether the U.S.-led coalition effort against ISIS is making any progress. Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, will testify.

That same day, the House Select Committee on Benghazi will convene for its second hearing. The meeting will feature two State Department officials and serve as a follow-up to the panel’s inaugural session in September.

The hearing could feature criticism of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Hickenlooper announces Senate bid MORE, who was secretary of State at the time of the deadly strike in Libya.

The GOP has repeatedly attacked Clinton’s handling of the attack, with several suggesting it should disqualify her from running for president in 2016.

Wednesday afternoon the House Armed Services Committee’s subpanel on Strategic Forces and the House Foreign Affairs subpanel subpanel on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade will hold a joint hearing on Russia’s commitment to arms control and the administration’s response. Two witnesses from the Defense and State departments are slated to appear.

Off Capitol Hill, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt will speak Monday afternoon at the Atlantic Council about the ongoing security crisis between Ukraine and Russia.

Tuesday evening, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James will deliver the keynote address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ 2014 winter conference.

— This story was updated at 10:34 a.m.