Overnight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases

Overnight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases
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Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. We're Rebecca Kheel and Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond.

 

THE TOPLINE: The House will move on its $674.6 billion fiscal 2019 Pentagon spending bill next week.

First up, the House Rules Committee has to decide which of more than a hundred amendments will get a floor vote.

As of Friday afternoon, 123 amendments have been filed. A full list of amendments is on the Rules Committee website, but here are a few highlights. Keep in mind the most interesting (read: controversial) often don't make it out of the committee:

Immigration: Several Democratic amendments are focused on the ongoing controversy over family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border and other immigration issues. One from 26 Democrats led by Rep. Lloyd DoggettLloyd Alton DoggettOvernight Health Care: How Republicans who voted against ObamaCare repeal fared in midterms | Cummings may call in drug companies | FDA to ban sale of flavored e-cigarettes: report Dems mark Trump tax returns as key part of agenda Overnight Health Care: House Dems plan early vote on pre-existing conditions | ObamaCare repeal off the table for now | Dem overtures to Trump on drug pricing worry pharma MORE (D-Texas) would prohibit the Pentagon from fulfilling any requests made by Health and Human Services related to the care or custody of unaccompanied children and those separated from their parents.

Another one from Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHeads up, GOP: Elections have consequences Top Dems: DOJ position on Whitaker appointment 'fatally flawed' House Dems launching probe into Whitaker's role in company government deemed a 'scam' MORE (D-Calif.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDem overtures to Trump on drug pricing worry pharma Dems warn party message lacks punch Trump unveils most aggressive action to target drug prices MORE (D-Vt.) would prohibit funding to help with facilities detaining unaccompanied immigrant children on Pentagon-owned land.

Another amendment from Democratic Reps. Raja KrishnamoorthiSubramanian (Raja) Raja KrishnamoorthiNellie Ohr exercises spousal privilege in meeting with House panels Four-year colleges aren’t the only tickets to the American Dream Trump, Obamas and Clintons among leaders mourning Aretha Franklin MORE (Ill.), Welch, Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.) and Jim McGovern (Mass.) would bar funding for detaining immigrant families on Defense Department property.

An amendment from Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeDem pollster: Texas, Georgia diversifying because they are 'centers for opportunity' Cruz brushes off question about campaign claim on O'Rourke paying for caravan Trump 'simply wants to keep people out' of US, says recently elected Texas Dem MORE (D-Texas) would ban funding from being used to deploy the National Guard to the southern border to enforce immigration laws. Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineDem rep slams Facebook: It 'cannot be trusted to regulate itself' Number of LGBT lawmakers in Congress hits double digits Momentum builds for Dems to take on campaign finance reform MORE (D-R.I.) similarly filed an amendment to ban the use of National Guardsmen to enforce immigration laws.

Cicilline and Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Dina TitusAlice (Dina) Costandina Titus2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck Trump more involved in blocking FBI HQ sale than initially thought: Dems Overnight Defense: Uproar over report Army discharging some immigrants | Latest on Pompeo in Pyongyang | Trump hits NATO ahead of summit MORE (D-Nev.) also have an amendment to prohibit funding from being used to have Judge Advocate Generals (JAGs) help with immigration enforcement, while Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeLiberals only care about sexism when it's convenient Dems call for emergency hearing in wake of attacks stemming from 'white supremacist views' GOP senator says wife received video of beheading after Kavanaugh vote MORE (D-Texas) has a similar amendment to prevent funding from being used to reassign JAGs from the Pentagon to the Justice Department. And Reps. Jose SerranoJosé Enrique SerranoHeritage: Repealing GOP tax law would raise taxes in every district Ocasio-Cortez wins write-in primary in neighboring congressional district Overnight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases MORE (D-N.Y.) and Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) have an amendment to prevent the Pentagon from entering into an agreement with the Justice Department to use Defense Department personnel to enforce immigration laws.

F-35s to Turkey: Reps. John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesMomentum builds for Dems to take on campaign finance reform Hoyer lays out government reform blueprint Pelosi seizes on anti-corruption message against GOP MORE (D-Md.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Cicilline have the latest attempt to prevent Turkey from getting F-35 fighter jets. Their amendment would ban any funding from being used to transfer the aircraft to Turkey.

Aircraft carrier: Reps. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanVirginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence Overnight Defense: House passes 5B defense spending bill | Pentagon moving forward on Trump military parade | Mattis vows 'ironclad' support for South Korea's defense House passes 5B Pentagon spending bill MORE (R-Va.) and Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyHouse lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war Overnight Defense: Officials rush to deny writing anonymous op-ed | Lawmakers offer measure on naming NATO headquarters after McCain | US, India sign deal on sharing intel Lawmakers introduce resolution to back naming NATO headquarters after McCain MORE (D-Conn.), the leaders of the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee, filed an amendment to allow the Navy to buy its next two aircraft carriers, as opposed to just one. Such an amendment would get the appropriations bill on the same page as the House's National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment is co-sponsored by Reps. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottThe results are in: How the nation voted on criminal justice issues that impact our youth Dems want to hold officials’ feet to the fire on ObamaCare Healthy business vs healthy people — how will this administration address the two? MORE (D-Va.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherGOP lawmaker calls for committees to elect their own chairmen Overnight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations NATO head shoots down idea of naming new headquarters after McCain MORE (R-Wis.).

Transgender troops: Reps. Titus, Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierFemale House Dems urge Senate to delay Kavanaugh testimony for FBI investigation Election Countdown: Kavanaugh allegations put GOP in tough spot | Republicans start to pull plug on candidates | Dems get early start in Iowa | O'Rourke defends Cruz after protesters interrupt dinner | Why Biden is the Democrat GOP most fears Dems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage MORE (D-Calif.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda Marijuana and the midterms MORE (D-Ore.) filed an amendment to prohibit funding from being used to separate troops based solely on their gender identity.

Chinese tech: Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoWe all must speak up to protect our national monuments Dem rep: Trump is ‘scared’ of House Democratic oversight Arizona Dems hope higher Latino turnout will help turn the state blue MORE (D-Ariz.) has two amendment targeting Chinese telecommunications companies ZTE and Huawei. One prevents funding from being used to enter into a contract with the companies. The other prevents funding from being used to reduce any penalties assessed to the companies.

OBSTACLES TO TRUMP'S SPACE FORCE: President Trump's proposal this week for a "Space Force" is already facing obstacles in Congress and at the Pentagon -- two places where he'll need broad support to get his initiative off the ground.

Trump surprised lawmakers and military officials on Monday when he directed the Defense Department to create a Space Force as its sixth military service branch. On Capitol Hill, the president faces the difficult task of garnering congressional backing for his plan, with several key lawmakers voicing skepticism over the idea.

The opposition in Congress: Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonFlorida not using Broward County's recount tally because it uploaded results 2 minutes late Election Countdown: Florida Senate race heads to hand recount | Dem flips Maine House seat | New 2020 trend - the 'friend-raiser' | Ad war intensifies in Mississippi runoff | Blue wave batters California GOP DeSantis holds lead over Gillum after recount MORE (D-Fla.), who led last year's effort to kill a House proposal to establish a space corps within the Air Force, is leading the charge again this year to attempt to extinguish the idea.

"I think it's somebody wanting to have something new that they can talk about," Nelson, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said of Trump's plan.

Nelson said that the new branch "would cost so much money, it would be so duplicative." He added that Air Force officials also don't want the move, but "they are now muzzled" by the administration from speaking out against it.

Senior member of the Armed Services panel, Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Border deployment 'peaked' at 5,800 troops | Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Senators offer bill to press Trump on Saudis | Paul effort to block Bahrain arms sale fails US military to draw down in Africa by 'less than 10 percent' Pentagon official: Trump's Space Force could cost up to billion MORE (R-Okla.), meanwhile, told The Hill he's reluctant to back a separate Space Force.

"That's a serious subject. It's one that I would have a hard time supporting," Inhofe said. "All of our branches have the space element and it's working. If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

He added that he's "not sure how serious" Trump was when he made the announcement.

Time issues: The commander in chief will need help from lawmakers, who must decide whether to amend Title 10 of the United States Code to allow for the creation of a new military service.

But both the House and the Senate have completed their versions of the annual defense policy bill, with little room for a Space Force provision to be added when lawmakers from both chambers reconcile the two measures during a conference committee.

Timing-wise, that would leave next year's NDAA as the next opportunity for Congress to tackle the issue. But even then, creating a Space Force is expected to take at least another two or three years, minimum.

Hurdles at the Pentagon: The Pentagon also appears hesitant to act quickly on Trump's directive, with military officials releasing a statement after his announcement indicating the process would take some time.

"Our policy board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy," chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said. "Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders."

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisMacron’s 'Euro-army' is an idea whose time has come Pentagon limiting senior leader appearances at public events: report Pentagon: Number of troops at border has 'pretty much peaked' at 5,800 MORE on Wednesday said that Trump's proposal will require work with Congress that has not yet started.

And Air Force leaders last year warned that it would be premature and create burdensome bureaucracy to separate a space component from the rest of the service.

On Tuesday, Air Force officials released a memo to personnel saying not to expect any immediate changes following Trump's announcement.

 

SENATORS 'DEEPLY TROUBLED' MILITARY LAWYERS BEING USED FOR IMMIGRATION CASES: Three senators, including one Republican, are asking the Pentagon to rethink its decision to send military lawyers to help prosecute immigration cases.

"For years, Congress has worked with the department on reforming the military justice system and providing the services with the resources to support the critical mission of promoting justice and maintaining good order and discipline within the armed forces," Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandHillicon Valley: Facebook reeling after NYT report | Dems want DOJ probe | HQ2 brings new scrutiny on Amazon | Judge upholds Russian troll farm indictments | Cyber moonshot panel unveils recommendations On The Money: Senior GOP senator warns Trump against shutdown | Treasury sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | HQ2 deal brings new scrutiny on Amazon | Senate confirms Bowman to Fed board Gillibrand criticizes financial incentives for Amazon MORE (D-N.Y.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstSenators introduce Trump-backed criminal justice bill The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — House, Senate leaders named as Pelosi lobbies for support to be Speaker The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Leadership elections in Congress | Freshman lawmakers arrive | Trump argues he can restrict reporter access MORE (R-Iowa) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenators introduce Trump-backed criminal justice bill Dem senators want hearing on funding for detained migrant children Dem senators request classified briefing on Khashoggi MORE (D-Vt.) wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday night.

"We are, therefore, deeply troubled by the department's decision to send twenty-one active and reserve JAGs to the border on temporary orders to prosecute immigration cases," they added.

The issue: News broke Wednesday night that the Pentagon had approved a request from the Justice Department to send 21 Judge Advocate Generals (JAGs) to the U.S.-Mexico border to help clear a backlog of immigration cases.

That happened amid an uproar over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that starts the process of criminal prosecution for all illegal border crossers, leading to more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents.

The JAGs will be appointed special assistant U.S. attorneys to help prosecute misdemeanor improper entry and felony illegal reentry cases. The temporary assignments are expected to last about six months.

What the senators ask: In their letter, the senators said they are concerned the lawyers are being used for a non-military mission for which they have no training.

"While JAGs currently serve as special assistant United States attorneys throughout the country, this occurs in districts with military installations and involves working on cases with a clear military nexus such as theft from a commissary or civilian DUIs on a military base," they wrote. "However, unlike those situations, these twenty-one JAGs are being directed to practice wholly outside of their training, within the vast and complex immigration arena."

The senators also said that JAGs with trial experience are "desperately needed" as prosecutors, defense lawyers or special victims counsel in the military's most serious criminal cases.

 

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid will speak about "An alternative vision for Israel" at 10 a.m. at the Brookings Institution. https://brook.gs/2yyUKy5

The House Rules Committee will prepare the fiscal year 2019 defense appropriations bill for floor debate at 5 p.m. at the House side of the Capitol, room 313. https://bit.ly/2trAwAp

 

ICYMI

--The Hill: Trump's Space Force decree came after Pentagon didn't act on his suggestion: report

--The Hill: SpaceX wins $130M Air Force contract to launch spy satellite

--The Hill: White House: North Korea presents 'unusual and extraordinary threat'

-- The Hill: Military recorded 20 instances of lasers attacking US aircraft since September: report

-- The Washington Post: Trump administration considers plan to use Coast Guard money to pay for border enforcement

-- The New York Times: North and South Korea agree to hold reunions of families divided by war

-- Reuters: Taliban kill 16 Afghan soldiers, kidnap engineers after ceasefire ends