Overnight Defense: Opposition to Mattis waiver fizzles | Trump taps another general | National Guard officials testify on bonuses

Overnight Defense: Opposition to Mattis waiver fizzles | Trump taps another general | National Guard officials testify on bonuses
© Getty

THE TOPLINE: Congress appeared poised to wrap up the lame-duck session and head home for the holidays this week as a controversy over Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE's pick to head the Pentagon quickly fizzled.

Both the White House and top congressional Democrats signaled Wednesday that they will not block a government funding bill that includes language to speed up the confirmation process for retired Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, Trump's nominee for Defense secretary.

ADVERTISEMENT

That means the stopgap spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown should easily clear the House on Thursday afternoon. It's expected to pass the Senate before a Friday night deadline, despite some last-minute kinks to work out in the upper chamber.

The continuing resolution would fund the government through April 28.

Check back at TheHill.com later for a full story.

LAWMAKERS QUESTION GUARD OFFICIALS: Officials from the National Guard and the Pentagon testified on Capitol Hill on Wednesday on the bonus-clawback scandal for the first time since it broke last month.

The Hill's Kristina Wong was at the hearing and has the story:

The Pentagon told members of Congress on Wednesday that it hoped to whittle down the number of California National Guard soldiers asked to repay bonuses from 17,000 to about 700.

"That's a goal, I don't know the exact number we get to," Peter Levine, performing the duties of the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

The steep reduction comes after a Los Angeles Times report revealed in October that the Pentagon was trying to clawback bonuses paid a decade ago to tens of thousands of soldiers to enlist when troops were badly needed to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The California National Guard had conducted an audit that showed that more than 9,000 of soldiers were paid bonuses erroneously, and the Times report revealed the troops were being aggressively pursued by debt collectors and threatened with tax liens, interest charges, and wage garnishments.

Read the rest here.

RETIRED GENERAL FOR DHS: The former commander of U.S. Southern Command, retired Gen. John Kelly, has been tapped by Trump to run the Department of Homeland Security.

Kelly retired in January after more than 45 years in the Marines. From 2012 until his retirement, he led Southcom, the combatant command in charge of military operations in Central and South America.

Like Trump, he has warned of the threat of terrorists and drug smugglers crossing into the country from Mexico. He also clashed with President Obama's plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

The Hill's Harper Neidig has more here.

NOVEMBER SUICIDE BOMBING KILLS THIRD SOLDIER: A third soldier has died from wounds suffered in an apparent suicide bombing last month in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

Sgt. First Class Allan E. Brown, 46, of Takoma Park, Md., died Tuesday at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, the Defense Department said.

Brown was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

The bombing happened at Bagram Air Field on Nov. 12. It was the first suicide bombing inside the walls of the heavily guarded base since U.S. forces entered Afghanistan in 2001.

Read more here.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

A House Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Littoral Combat Ship at 9 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. http://bit.ly/2gVoHuc

Senate Foreign Relations will hold a hearing on the State Department and USAID in the next administration at 10 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. http://bit.ly/2g1hz1U

ICYMI:

-- The Hill: Pelosi: Dems OK with Mattis compromise

-- The Hill: Karl Rove scolds Trump over Boeing comments

-- The Hill: Treasury sanctions two Yemeni nationals tied to al Qaeda

-- The Hill: Dem vet lawmaker: Senate 'would be wise' to confirm Mattis

-- Associated Press: Military targets handling of misconduct cases

-- Stars and Stripes: Neller: Marines will review women-in-combat integration if requested by Trump

Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Rebecca Kheel, rkheel@thehill.com 

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill@kristina_wong@Rebecca_H_K