Overnight Defense: Senators offer bill to curb Trump's tariff power | Bill could get vote in defense bill debate | House panel unveils $674.6B Pentagon spending bill | Mattis says tariffs won't hurt NATO ties

Overnight Defense: Senators offer bill to curb Trump's tariff power | Bill could get vote in defense bill debate | House panel unveils $674.6B Pentagon spending bill | Mattis says tariffs won't hurt NATO ties
© Greg Nash

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond.

 

THE TOPLINE: Bucking President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE's opposition, a bipartisan group of senators moved forward Wednesday with a proposal to limit his power to levy tariffs on national security grounds.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters MORE (R-Tenn.) is leading the effort.

"If the president truly believes invoking Section 232 is necessary to protect the United States from a genuine threat, he should make the case to Congress and to the American people and do the hard work necessary to secure congressional approval," Corker said in a statement announcing the bill.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls MORE (D-N.D.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (R-Pa.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerRussia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ MORE (D-Va.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke MORE (R-Tenn.), Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOvernight Energy: Warren bill would force companies to disclose climate impacts | Green group backs Gillum in Florida gov race | Feds to open refuge near former nuke site Warren wants companies to disclose more about climate change impacts Congress just failed our nation’s veterans when it comes to medical marijuana MORE (D-Hawaii), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills MORE (R-Wis.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law Trump authorizes sanctions against foreign governments that interfere in US elections MORE (D-Md.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeReexamining presidential power over national monuments Utah group complains Mia Love should face criminal penalties for improper fundraising Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE (R-Utah), and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters MORE (R-Ariz.) are also supporting the bill.

What the bill does: The bill would require Trump to submit tariffs implemented under Section 232 of the trade law for approval to Congress. Any approval legislation would then have a 60-day window to be fast-tracked through both chambers.

The requirement would apply to all future Section 232 action, as well as retroactively for the past two years.

Earlier: Corker filed the bill despite a call from Trump earlier in the day asking him not to do so.

"I talked at length with the president about it today. He's obviously not pleased with this effort," Corker told reporters.

Corker said that the two had a "fairly lengthy" conversation about the forthcoming legislation. Asked if Trump was objecting to the legislation, Corker added: "Oh yeah."

Pressed if the talk with the president was "tense," Corker demurred, saying that they had a "heartfelt conversation."

Will it be in the defense bill?: Corker has pointed to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as one potential vehicle for his tariff legislation. But getting the bill brought up as an amendment to the defense policy bill would require the consent of every senator.

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTrump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Steady Kavanaugh proves to be a tough target for Democrats MORE (R-Okla.), who is managing the NDAA, in the absence of Armed Services Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainArizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ Trump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Another recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief MORE (R-Ariz.), said he thought Corker would ultimately be able to get a vote.

"I think it will. In fact, I told Corker that I would not object to it," Inhofe said, while noting he would vote against the amendment.

Asked if he thought Corker's bill should get a vote as part of the NDAA, Cornyn said the Senate should have an "open amendment process."

"It's the source of a lot of frustration here among members when people are denied an opportunity to vote. Back in the good old days ... we used to have [a] much more open amendment process," he said.

But the process for setting up roll call votes on amendments to the NDAA has ground to a halt in recent years as senators object to a vote on any amendment unless they can also get a vote on their own proposals.

Cornyn noted on Wednesday that there are already objections to amendments as lawmakers jockey for leverage, which could complicate Corker's quest to add his tariff legislation to the defense policy bill.

 

DEFENSE BILL WATCH: The Senate Wednesday slowly but surely turned toward its NDAA. But again, don't expect a vote until at least next week.

Just in time for the floor debate, the full bill text was released Wednesday morning. You can dig into all 1,140 pages here.

Here's a few interesting aspects in the meantime:

Spying on Russians: The bill would authorize the Pentagon to conduct surveillance on individuals conducting hacking or disinformation campaigns on behalf of the Russian government – a clear reference to Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The bill's contents reflect a growing interest by committee lawmakers in codifying and expanding the Pentagon's authorities and operations in cyberspace, at a time when digital threats from nation states and other malicious actors abound.

The Russia-related provisions also demonstrate an effort by lawmakers to involve the military in responding in various ways to cyberattacks from Moscow – including those that aim to meddle in U.S. political affairs.

Russia, China in general: The bill addresses "China's militarization in the South China Sea and deterring Russia's military aggression and cyber attacks," Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said on the Senate floor as the full chamber began consideration of the bill.

Inhofe has taken over as head of the Armed Services panel while Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) is at home receiving treatment for brain cancer.

Committee ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedNew York Times: Trump mulling whether to replace Mattis after midterms Overnight Defense: Biden honors McCain at Phoenix memorial service | US considers sending captured ISIS fighters to Gitmo and Iraq | Senators press Trump on ending Yemen civil war Senators press Trump administration on Yemen civil war MORE (D-R.I.) said the bill "reflects that strategic shift towards prioritizing the strategic competition with Russia and China."

"It supports the president's budget request for resources to deter, and if necessary, defend against aggression from near-peer competitors," Reed said.

 

DEFENSE SPENDING WATCH: While the defense policy bill works its way through the upper chamber, the lower chamber is making progress on the defense spending bill.

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday unveiled its $674.6 billion Pentagon spending bill for fiscal 2019.

The bill would provide $606.5 billion in base discretionary funding, which is about $900 million less than the Trump administration requested but $17.1 billion more than this year's spending level.

The bill would also provide $68.1 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

Troops, equipment: The money would pay for a boost of 15,600 troops across the military and a 2.6 percent pay raise for service members, both matching what was requested by the administration.

The bill would also provide $145.7 billion for equipment purchases and upgrades. That's split $133 billion for base requirements -- or $2.5 billion more than requested -- and $12.7 billion in OCO.

The procurement money includes $22.7 billion for 12 new Navy ships, two more ships than the administration requested. The two extra ships are littoral combat ships, which Congress continues to support buying -- despite the Navy's plan to transition away from the ship -- so that shipyards keep working and will be able to keep pace on future orders.

The bill would also fund a slew of aircraft, including $9.4 billion for 93 F-35 fighter jets and $1.9 billion for 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft.

About those planes: Ninety-three F-35s are 16 more than the administration requested.

It's also more than House and Senate authorizers thought necessary. The House NDAA followed the administration's request for 77 F-35s, while the Senate NDAA has 75 of the jets.

The F-35 is built by Lockheed Martin in defense appropriations subcommittee Chairwoman Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerThe stakes are sky-high for the pro-life cause in the upcoming midterms Bipartisanship alive and well, protecting critical infrastructure McCarthy's path to Speaker gets more complicated MORE's (R-Texas) district.

 

NATO MEETING: Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' Pompeo backed continued US support in Yemen war over objections from staff: report Stand with veterans instead of predatory for-profit colleges MORE is en route to a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, where he's expected to push allies to bulk up military readiness.

On his way there, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters he does not believe European and Canadian anger over U.S. tariffs will hurt military relations within NATO, The Associated Press reported.

"Right now, I don't see that," Mattis said.

Asked whether he thinks the tariffs will hurt security ties with NATO partners, including Canada, Mattis also said he thinks it's premature to call the tariffs a trade war.

View from Brussels: Ahead of the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he expects allies to agree to the U.S. plan to boost readiness even as he cautioned about "serious disagreements" among members over President Trump's tariffs, withdrawal from the Iran deal and exit from the Paris climate accord.

"These are serious difference between NATO allies," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a new conference in Brussels. "At the same time, we have to remember that we have seen differences before, all the way back to the 1950s where NATO allies disagreed on the Suez crisis or when France decided to leave the command structure in the 1960s or the Iraq War in 2003.

"So it's nothing new that there are difference between NATO allies, and what we have seen again and again is that we have been able to unite around NATO's core task to protect and defend each other despite those difference."

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee will mark up the fiscal 2019 defense spending bill behind closed doors at noon. https://bit.ly/2kRAxcY

A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on U.S. business investment and trade in the Americas with testimony from outside experts at 2 p.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172. https://bit.ly/2kTuftv

Another House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on human rights in Vietnam with testimony from outside experts at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2200. https://bit.ly/2sBdhnY

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: John Bolton will travel to Singapore for Trump-Kim summit

-- The Hill: Trump signs VA reform bill without Democratic co-author

-- The Hill: Man arrested after stealing armored vehicle from National Guard base

-- The Hill: Opinion: Maybe Trump perfected the art of the deal for North Korea

-- The Hill: Opinion: On D-Day's anniversary, Eisenhower reminds us of just war in action

-- The Hill: Opinion: All signs point to North Korea preparing a bait-and-switch

-- USA Today: U.S. gives Humvees to Afghan army, then blows them up when they fall into Taliban hands

-- Defense News: Partisan battle for new tactical nuke looms in Senate