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 — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems change drug pricing bill to address progressive concerns | Top Republican rejects Dem proposal on surprise medical bills | Vaping group launches Fox News ad blitz House Democrats change drug pricing bill in bid to address progressive concerns A dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal 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 SchiffTrump says lawmakers should censure Schiff Schiff says committees will eventually make impeachment inquiry transcripts public The comments and actions of Schiff demand his formal censure MORE (D-Calif.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDemocrats see John Bolton as potential star witness Democrats plow ahead as Trump seeks to hobble impeachment effort Democrats claim new momentum from intelligence watchdog testimony 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 KrishnamoorthiSondland could provide more clues on Ukraine controversy Trump's cruelty toward immigrants weakens rather than strengthens America Overnight Health Care — Presented by Better Medicare Alliance — Federal judge blocks Trump from detaining migrant children indefinitely | Health officials tie vaping-related illnesses to 'Dank Vapes' brand | Trump to deliver health care speech in Florida 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'RourkeHillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets O'Rourke rips Bill O'Reilly: The problem with our economy is 'a disgraced TV host like you makes millions' O'Rourke on whether mass shooters would hand over weapons: 'I expect our fellow Americans to follow the law' 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 CicillineHillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets House investigators receive initial documents from top tech companies Celebrating the LGBTQ contribution to progress in business 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 TitusThe PREPARED Act will protect vulnerable animals when disaster strikes Marijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis House Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment 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 LeeConsequential GOP class of 1994 all but disappears Video of Greta Thunberg crossing paths with Trump at UN goes viral Lewandowski: House testimony shows I'd be 'a fighter' in the Senate 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 SarbanesHouse to vote this month on legislation to combat foreign interference in elections Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference 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. CourtneyState dinner highlights the enduring importance of US-Australia alliance House committee heads demand Coast Guard Academy explain handling of harassment allegations House votes to repeal ObamaCare's 'Cadillac tax' 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 ScottCBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Democrats divided on surprise medical bill fix NYC teacher suing DeVos over student loan forgiveness program MORE (D-Va.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherOn The Money: Fed officials saw rising risk of recession | Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz blast NBA for 'outrageous' response to China | Prospects dim for trade breakthrough with China Ocasio-Cortez, Ted Cruz join colleagues blasting NBA for 'outrageous' response to China Showing consumers health care pricing could lower costs MORE (R-Wis.).

Transgender troops: Reps. Titus, Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierSondland could provide more clues on Ukraine controversy Equal Rights Amendment and Justice Ginsburg's 'hope' comments Hacker conference report details persistent vulnerabilities to US voting systems MORE (D-Calif.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerPortland hotel chain founded by Trump ambassador says boycott is attack on employees VA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules Coalition of farmers and ranchers endorses Green New Deal 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 GallegoOvernight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest 2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft 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 NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity 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 confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump declares 'case closed' as text messages raise new questions Top House Democrat: Trump did 'on camera' what Romney warned about 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 MattisTrump turns Pelosi's 'meltdown' criticism around: 'She is a very sick person' War of words at the White House Trump calls Mattis 'world's most overrated general' over ISIS comments 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 GillibrandOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Lobbying world MORE (D-N.Y.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstFarmers: New Trump ethanol proposal reneged on previous deal Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate Liberal group to target Ernst over Social Security 'behind closed doors' comments MORE (R-Iowa) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyRand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter Senator questions agencies on suicide prevention, response after Epstein's death in federal custody During impeachment storm, senators cross aisle to lessen mass incarceration 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