Overnight Defense

OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: GOP taking Benghazi fight to House floor

BENGHAZI FIGHT TO HIT HOUSE FLOOR:  Republicans on Wednesday night will take to the House floor, demanding the State Department turn over all documents related to the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack, The Hill’s Scott Wong reported.

“We want to explain to the American people the delays, what’s going on with the emails and what we’re going through to try to get them,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), who sits on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is investigating the attacks.

The so-called special order speeches are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

{mosads}Republicans concede they may have little effect on the State Department, but Westmoreland said “it’s better than doing nothing.”

Department officials say they are reviewing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails and that they may not be ready until 2016.

But Benghazi panel Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) has suggested that he won’t call Clinton to testify until his committee has all the information they need. That could drag the proceedings into the election year as Clinton runs for president.

STATE SHUTDOWN? GOP members are also threatening to shutter part of the State Department if the Obama administration doesn’t cough up more documents from Clinton’s tenure leading the department.

“There’s a discussion. We haven’t come to a conclusion yet,” said Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for State and foreign aid.

Benghazi panel Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) suggested using State Department funding as leverage earlier this month in an interim report on the investigation.

The concept has gained speed this week, with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) conceding “there is a chance of that happening.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the Benghazi Committee, ripped the potential move.

“Reducing State Department funding and personnel will only further slowdown and drag out the Republican’s taxpayer-funded political attack on Secretary Clinton,” he said in a statement.

GOP BASHES WHITE HOUSE OVER ISIS: Senate Republicans are demanding President Obama change his strategy against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria after the terror group captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi, reported The Hill’s Jordain Carney. 

“If you don’t change your strategy… then this country is very likely to get attacked in another 9/11 fashion,” warned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is considering a presidential run. 

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the president will speed up the training and equipping of Sunni tribal fighters in an effort to erase gains made by ISIS.

But White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters later Wednesday that there is currently “no formal strategy review that is underway.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the White House was bogged down, calling their approach “paralysis by analysis.”

“I hope this is a wake-up call to the Obama administration and that they will provide the Congress and the American people and our troops a clear path forward to defeat ISIL and to rid the world of this terror army,” he added, using an alternate name for the group.

The senators’ also blasted Obama Wednesday for a speech in which he argued that climate change poses a threat to national security.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) slammed the climate change comments, asking if the administration gave “a damn about what’s happening in the streets of Ramadi?”

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the U.S. needed to ramp up support for Sunni fighters.

“These are the guys that we need to arm, and we aren’t arming them. We are not helping them in any way whatsoever,” he said.

He bashed the administration for a “feckless, naive foreign policy” and predicted retaking Ramadi would be a futile fight.

“They can’t take Ramadi back. It took us — it was a hard nut to crack for us, both Fallujah and Ramadi. I don’t think they can take them back. That’s my call,” he said.

HOUSE SUBPANEL PASSES DEFENSE BUDGET: The House Appropriations Committee’s defense subpanel passed a defense spending bill Wednesday, setting up a potential veto from the White House.

The 2016 Defense Appropriations Act would hew to federal budget caps that set base defense spending to $490 billion.

However, the bill would circumvent those caps and boost defense spending by adding $89 billion to a war funding account.

The president has urged Congress to lift those caps mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, and has threatened to veto any budget legislation that does not lift the caps on both defense and non-defense spending.

Republicans leaving the markup session said they had no choice but to follow the sequestration caps set in law.

“That’s the law. I don’t think we have much choice but to follow the law,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).

He said a deal to lift the caps would come outside of the committee, leaving appropriators with little choice but to appropriate to the Republican budget resolution passed earlier this month.

“It needs to be a larger conversation. It’s not going to happen on this committee, it needs to happen above this committee, so, and I hope that occurs,” he said.

“But right now you have to mark to what the law allows you to do,” he added.

CLOCK TICKING ON VA HOSPITAL FUNDS: The Veterans Affairs Department warned that construction of a long-delayed agency hospital near Denver could stop altogether if Congress doesn’t authorize more funds before their Memorial Day break.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald sent a memo to the leaders of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee this week requesting a $200 million increase in the funding limit for the facility underway in Aurora, Colo., for a new total of $1 billion.

McDonald acknowledged the “inexcusable delays and cost overruns that have plagued” the project, which began over a decade ago and was recently projected to cost $1.7 billion, five times the original estimate.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said he has been “shuttling back and forth” between meetings with McDonald and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to work out a deal.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) said that time is “running out.”

“We need to finish the damn thing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Boehner on Wednesday went on the House floor to chide the VA for not doing enough to process benefits claims one year after former chief Eric Shinseki resigned in disgrace.

“This isn’t run-of-the-mill incompetence. It’s arrogance. And it’s arrogance that allows our veterans to be lied to, ignored, and frankly left to die,” Boehner said.

He wondered why employees at VA facilities that tried to conceal wait times were mostly transferred, allowed to retire, or put on paid leave after Congress voted last year to give the agency chief more power to do so.

“If only the Veterans Administration did half as good a job of taking care of the bureaucrats as they do our veterans, we’d be in a lot better shape,” Boehner said.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

— Obama: Climate change skeptics endangering national security

— Pataki: ‘Send in troops‘ to fight ISIS

— Sen. Cardin ‘not optimistic‘ about authorizing war against ISIS

— House Dem urges Congress to authorize ISIS war

— Obama turns the Middle East into the Wild West

 

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

 

Tags Boehner Eric Shinseki Hillary Clinton John Boehner John Cornyn John McCain Kay Granger Lindsey Graham Trey Gowdy
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