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 DoggettHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Speaker Pelosi, seize the moment to make history on drug pricing House Democrats sue Treasury to turn over Trump tax returns 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 SchiffLawmakers sound alarm on China's disinformation campaign in Hong Kong Trump: Jews who vote Democrat show 'lack of knowledge or great disloyalty' Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE (D-Calif.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchOvernight Health Care: Oversight chair plans to call drug executives to testify on costs | Biden airs anti-'Medicare for All' video | House panel claims Juul deliberately targeted kids Mueller agrees investigation did not 'fail to turn up evidence of conspiracy' Live coverage: Mueller testifies before Congress 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 KrishnamoorthiOvernight Health Care: Oversight chair plans to call drug executives to testify on costs | Biden airs anti-'Medicare for All' video | House panel claims Juul deliberately targeted kids House panel claims Juul deliberately targeted children, teens Dem lawmaker asks Mueller if Trump administration was vulnerable to blackmail 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'RourkeBeto O'RourkeABC unveils moderators for third Democratic debate The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Harris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash 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 CicillineFirst House Republican backs bill banning assault weapons Hillicon Valley: O'Rourke proposal targets tech's legal shield | Dem wants public review of FCC agreement with T-Mobile, Sprint | Voters zero in on cybersecurity | Instagram to let users flag misinformation Democrat calls for public review of T-Mobile-Sprint merger agreement 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 TitusHouse Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Key endorsements: A who's who in early states 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 LeeJackson Lee: 'Racism is a national security threat' Most oppose cash reparations for slavery: poll Poll: Most Americans oppose reparations 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 SerranoThe House Republicans and Democrats not seeking reelection in 2020 Democrat vows to withhold funds for census citizenship question José Serrano says he has Parkinson's, will not seek reelection 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 Sarbanes2020 Democrats vow to get tough on lobbyists Mueller remarks put renewed focus on election security bills Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' 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 Port: Gateway to the economic growth Republican lawmakers ask Trump not to delay Pentagon cloud-computing contract Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland MORE (R-Va.) and Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyHouse committee heads demand Coast Guard Academy explain handling of harassment allegations House votes to repeal ObamaCare's 'Cadillac tax' Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One 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 ScottDemocrats: Trump plan could jeopardize 500,000 children's free school meals Lawmakers, press hit the courts for charity tennis event House approves bill raising minimum wage to per hour MORE (D-Va.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherBipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year Overnight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Wis.).

Transgender troops: Reps. Titus, Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierEpstein death sparks questions for federal government Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess Democrats see window closing for impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerAirports already have plenty of infrastructure funding Climate protesters glue themselves to Capitol doors, confront lawmakers Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment 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 GallegoCongressional Hispanic Caucus calls for answers on Mississippi ICE raids Congressional Hispanic Caucus members call for diversity within the Fed Overnight Energy: Warren edges past Sanders in poll of climate-focused voters | Carbon tax shows new signs of life | Greens fuming at Trump plans for development at Bears Ears monument 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 NelsonAl Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups 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 InhofeSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Democrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections Bottom Line 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 MattisOnly Donald Trump has a policy for Afghanistan New Pentagon report blames Trump troop withdrawal for ISIS surge in Iraq and Syria Mattis returns to board of General Dynamics 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 GillibrandOvernight Defense: Two US service members killed in Afghanistan | Trump calls on other nations to take up fight against ISIS | Pentagon scraps billion-dollar missile defense program Sanders targets gig economy as part of new labor plan Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill MORE (D-N.Y.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstErnst town hall in Iowa gets contentious over guns Air Force probe finds no corroboration of sexual assault allegations against Trump pick Gun control activists set to flex muscle in battle for Senate MORE (R-Iowa) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules 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