Overnight Defense

OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Obama says he doesn’t need vote for ISIS fight

THE TOPLINE: President Obama told congressional leaders Tuesday that he has the authority he needs to take his planned action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The president on Tuesday afternoon met with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at the White House.

{mosads}The president is set to address the nation Wednesday night, laying out his strategy to combat ISIS

The White House meeting came as lawmakers, including Democrats, remain sharply divided over whether to vote on authorizing the use of military force against the militant group.

Some GOP House members said a vote would be unnecessary so long as Obama rolls out a detailed strategy Wednesday night.

Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, became the third lawmaker in two days to introduce a resolution giving the president legal authority to go after ISIS.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) took to the Senate floor to give a fiery speech stressing the need for a vote on the use of force.

“I don’t believe he has the authority to go on offense,” he said. “It is the job of Congress not the president to declare war.”

Yet despite the growing number of proposals, Reid said he was “inclined to not rush in to anything.”

Obama’s announcement makes it unlikely that lawmakers will vote on authorizing force before they adjourn in two weeks.


HOUSE CONDEMNS OBAMA OVER BERGDAHL SWAP: The House condemned the Obama administration on Tuesday for not giving Congress advance notice of the exchange that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners

The House passed a resolution condemning the administration largely along party lines in a 249-163 vote, but 22 Democrats broke ranks to rebuke the president. 

The Pentagon is required by the 2014 Defense Appropriations Act to notify Congress at least 30 days before transferring prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, but the administration decided that doing so would have risked the operation and interfered with the president’s constitutional authority to protect Bergdahl. 

A Government Accountability Office report found last month that the administration violated the law by not adhering to the requirement.

“In transferring the Taliban Five without lawfully notifying Congress, the administration deprived Congress of the opportunity to consider the national security risks that such a transfer could pose or the repercussions of negotiating with terrorists,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). 

The resolution also states that the exchange hurt the administration’s relationship with lawmakers. 

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he agreed that the Obama administration should have apprised Congress of the negotiations, but argued the resolution would strain relations further. 

“Unfortunately, I think this piece of legislation is unnecessary and I think it further poisons the well between the Congress and the president,” Smith said.


LAWMAKERS SLAM DOD WEAPONS FOR COPS: Senators blasted the Pentagon on Tuesday for providing local police forces with excess military equipment, saying it laid the groundwork for the crackdown on protesters in Ferguson, Mo. last month.

“Tell me what the difference is between an increasingly militarized police force and a standing army,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing. 

At issue is the Pentagon’s “1033 program,” which provides local police departments with surplus military equipment, including assault rifles, body armor, and armored vehicles.

“I think most Americans were uncomfortable watching a suburban street in St. Louis with vivid images of a war zone,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who called for the hearing

The Pentagon says the program is intended to help police combat terrorists and drug cartels, but the senators criticized the use of military equipment for crowd control after riots broke out in Ferguson following a police shooting of an unarmed black teenager. 

“When was the last time that equipment was used for true counterterrorism?” Coburn asked.

A Pentagon official who testified at the hearing defended the program, and said it was police departments who misused the program.  

“We, the Department of Defense [DOD], did not push any of this equipment on local police departments,” said Alan Estevez, the DOD’s principle deputy under secretary of Defense for acquisition, who oversees the 1033 program.



-Cheney visits GOP, blames Obama

-GOP bills would revoke passports for people involved with ISIS

-Udall apologizes for invoking slain US journalists in debate

-US ‘finalizing’ new sanctions against Russia

-VA watchdog: Wait-time manipulation prevalent


Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Martin Matishak, mmatishak@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill, @kristina_wong, @martinmatishak 

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