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 DoggettDems lash out at Trump for recalling furloughed workers Ex-interpreter for US troops in Afghanistan released from ICE custody Ocasio-Cortez sparks debate with talk of 70 percent marginal rate 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 SchiffSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Dems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell Giuliani calls latest Cohen allegations 'categorically false' MORE (D-Calif.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchKey House Dem: I don't want to 'punish' drug companies Overnight Health Care: Dems hit GOP with ObamaCare lawsuit vote | GOP seeks health care reboot after 2018 losses | House Dems aim for early victories on drug pricing | CDC declares lettuce e-coli outbreak over DeGette dropped from chief deputy whip spot 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 KrishnamoorthiHouse Democrats clash with Mnuchin following sanctions briefing Pelosi cranks up shutdown pressure on Trump, GOP Here are the lawmakers who will forfeit their salaries during the shutdown 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'RourkeEx-Michelle Obama aide says O'Rourke's road trip is a 'listening tour' in form of a travel blog Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Former staffer accuses Jackson Lee of retaliation after rape claim 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 CicillineDems revive impeachment talk after latest Cohen bombshell Hillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news Dems introduce bills to block offshore drilling 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 TitusDOJ announces .7 million in funding to help victims of Las Vegas mass shooting 2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck Trump more involved in blocking FBI HQ sale than initially thought: Dems 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 LeeEx-interpreter for US troops in Afghanistan released from ICE custody Former staffer accuses Jackson Lee of retaliation after rape claim Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall 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 SerranoCongress must not be fooled by the effort to block citizenship question Five things to know about Ocasio-Cortez’s 'Green New Deal' Heritage: Repealing GOP tax law would raise taxes in every district 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 SarbanesThe Democrats are leading off with a bill to 'restore democracy' Hillicon Valley: Marriott cuts breach estimates, but says millions of passports exposed | Los Angeles sues Weather Channel app over data collection | Bill would create office to fight Chinese threats to US tech | German politicians hit by major breach Democrats launch ‘drain-the-swamp’ agenda 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 look to reassure Australia after Mattis resignation House 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 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 ScottDems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour Hopes fade for bipartisan bills in age of confrontation House Dems to introduce minimum wage bill MORE (D-Va.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherLobbying World To win on anti-corruption, Democrats need to change the game plan House lawmakers look to reassure Australia after Mattis resignation MORE (R-Wis.).

Transgender troops: Reps. Titus, Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierJuan Williams on Fox: Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter are 'running this government' Coulter: Trump 'dead in the water' if he caves on wall Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (D-Calif.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerMarijuana industry boosts DC lobbying team House bill that would treat marijuana like alcohol named ‘HR 420’ in nod to cannabis culture Marijuana industry hunts for votes after helping to oust top opponent 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 GallegoMark Kelly considering Senate bid as Arizona Dems circle McSally Schumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat Science group seeks to draft Mark Kelly for 2020 Arizona Senate race 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 lawmaker diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Rick Scott threw party at Florida governor’s mansion after DeSantis and family had moved in: report Restoration of voting rights by felons marks shift in Florida 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 InhofePressure mounts for Trump to reconsider Syria withdrawal Dems express alarm at Trump missile defense plans Dem senator expresses concern over acting EPA chief's 'speedy promotion' 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: US 'retreat from Syria' won't change mission to eradicate ISIS Poll: Most Americans want US troops in Syria Fox's Griffin: Was told by diplomat that Syria attack was 'direct result' of US pullout decision 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 GillibrandSunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal Ocasio-Cortez speaks about 'justice' at Women's March 2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend MORE (D-N.Y.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  McConnell: Senate will not recess if government still shutdown Barr calls for 'barrier system' on border MORE (R-Iowa) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president GOP insiders knock their depictions in new Dick Cheney biopic ‘Vice’ Barr: It would be a crime for president to pardon someone in exchange for their silence 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