Overnight Defense: Senate panel approves $602B defense bill

THE TOPLINE: The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its $602 billion defense policy bill for fiscal 2017 Thursday in a 23-3 closed session vote, setting up a clash with the House.

The Senate committee released a summary of the bill Thursday evening confirming what Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' Democrats seek to counter GOP attacks on gas prices Biden nominates Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey MORE (R-Ariz.) had hinted at in recent weeks.


The upper chamber's bill does not shift $18 billion from the Pentagon's war fund to the base budget as House Republicans did in their version.

In releasing details of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), McCain, though, touted various reforms to Pentagon leadership and military health care, The Hill's Rebecca Kheel reports.

"This is a reform bill," McCain said in written statement. "The NDAA contains the most sweeping reforms of the organization of the Department of Defense in a generation."

The Senate version splits the $602 billion, with $543 billion for the base budget and $59 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund.

Of the war funding, $5 billion would be used for base requirements, as well, the same amount as in the Obama administration's budget request.

The House version would authorize $610 billion for defense spending. But it would take an extra $18 billion from the war fund, for a total of $23 million, to use for base requirements.

Read more here.


LAWMAKERS TRY TO FORCE ISIS WAR DEBATE: A bipartisan group of lawmakers is hoping to use an annual defense policy bill to force Congress to debate an authorization for the use of force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The lawmakers, who have filed amendments to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), gathered Thursday to again urge their colleagues to debate the issue on the House floor.

"For too long, Congress has been missing in action," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told reporters at a press conference. "It's unacceptable that while our brave service men and women face snipers and mortar rounds, Congress cannot even muster the courage to declare the war that they are fighting."

Lee was joined Thursday by Democratic Reps. Jim McGovern (Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.),Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchShakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Democrats debate shape of new Jan. 6 probe On the Money: Tech giants face rising pressure from shareholder activists | House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure | Sen. Warren, Jamie Dimon spar over overdraft fees at Senate hearing MORE (Vt.) and John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiLawmakers urge Biden to make 'bold decisions' in nuclear review Equilibrium/ Sustainability — The gentler side of Shark Week Pelosi rebuffs McConnell on infrastructure MORE (Calif.), and Republican Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.), Scott RigellScott RigellSpanberger's GOP challenger raises over .8 million in third quarter Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat GOP rushes to embrace Trump MORE (Va.) and Thomas Massie (Ky.).

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has more here


SENATE BILL OMITS AFGHAN VISAS: The Senate Armed Services Committee's 2017 defense policy bill does not include additional special immigration visas for Afghan interpreters who helped U.S. troops during the war. 

"It appears the Senate Armed Services Committee will not authorize in the [National Defense Authorization Act] any additional special immigrant visas for Afghan interpreters who assisted U.S. troops on the battlefield, due to objections raised by the Senate Judiciary Committee," said a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.

The source did not specify what objections were raised by the Judiciary Committee, saying only that they are "procedural." 

While there are about 4,000 visas currently available for Afghan interpreters through September, more than 10,000 applicants have been waiting in a backlog for years.

The Hill's Kristina Wong with the scoop here


WH, NYT DEFENDS RHODES STORY: The White House tried to turn the tables on congressional Republicans on Thursday, after leaders of the House Oversight Committee demanded that a top aide testify over recent comments regarding the nuclear deal with Iran.

Instead of having deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes testify, spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Thursday, GOP lawmakers should demand answers from their fellow Republicans.

"I think there are people who have some explaining to do when it comes to wildly false accusations about the Iran deal, and it's not the administration," he said.

The Hill's Julian Hattem has the story here

Meanwhile, the New York Times Magazine editor in chief Jake Silverstein blasted out a series of tweets on Thursday defending the story.

"1st off, every story published in the NYT Magazine is thoroughly fact-checked. Rhodes piece was no different," Jake Silverstein wrote in a series of tweets on the article.

"In short, we stand behind the piece 100%," Silverstein tweeted.

The Hill's Kristina Wong has more here



The full Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear about the risks of economic engagement with Iran from outside experts at 10 a.m. Thursday at Rayburn 2172. http://1.usa.gov/24yfI9q



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