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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 DoggettCongress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Trump order on drug prices faces long road to finish line 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 addresses pandemic but not election during annual turkey pardon Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin Hillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract MORE (D-Calif.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDemocrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Vermont Rep. Peter Welch easily wins primary 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 KrishnamoorthiHHS scraps celebrity COVID-19 ad campaign aimed at 'defeating despair' Documents show 'political' nature of Trump COVID ad campaign, lawmakers say Trust and transparency are necessary to make COVID-19 vaccine successful 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'RourkeMexico emerging as foreign policy challenge for Biden Beyoncé sports pro-Biden mask on Instagram Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden 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 CicillineHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats 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 TitusCoordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Safe, responsible casino gaming supports state economies at crucial time 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 LeePocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Grand jury charges no officers in Breonna Taylor death Hillicon Valley: Murky TikTok deal raises questions about China's role | Twitter investigating automated image previews over apparent algorithmic bias | House approves bill making hacking federal voting systems a crime 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 SerranoDemocrat criticizes Ocasio-Cortez bill: 'All Puerto Ricans should have a say' How a progressive populist appears to have toppled Engel House Democrats include 7 million for police reform in spending bill 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 SarbanesBottom line Congress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Congress must enact a plan to keep government workers safe 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 WittmanTrade groups make lobbying push to be included in small business loan program Overnight Defense: 32 dead in ISIS-claimed attack in Kabul | Trump says Taliban could 'possibly' overrun Afghan government when US leaves | House poised for Iran war powers vote next week Republicans eye top spot on Natural Resources panel MORE (R-Va.) and Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyRep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 Connecticut Democrat diagnosed with COVID-19 What we need to do next to defeat COVID and unify the country 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 ScottTrump officials approve Georgia plan to remove healthcare.gov as enrollment option House committee subpoenas Education Department staff over for-profit colleges Democrats demand answers from Labor Department on CDC recommendations for meatpacking plant MORE (D-Va.) and Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherReestablishing American prosperity by investing in the 'Badger Belt' Actors union blasts Democrat for criticizing GOP lawmaker's wife Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats MORE (R-Wis.).

Transgender troops: Reps. Titus, Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierPentagon puts on show of force as questions circle on COVID-19 outbreak Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety COVID-19 sparks national security concerns with top brass in quarantine MORE (D-Calif.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Restaurants brace for long COVID-19 winter 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 GallegoFavorites emerge as Latino leaders press Biden to appoint 5 Hispanics to Cabinet Tony Cárdenas casts himself as man to lead DCCC through fire Hispanic Caucus endorses Cárdenas to lead DCCC 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 NelsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Fearing defeat, Trump claims 'illegal' ballots The Hill's Morning Report - Biden inches closer to victory Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 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 InhofeHouse Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' 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 MattisProgressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper Talk grows of Trump firings at Pentagon, CIA 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 GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (D-N.Y.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Memo: Trump plows ahead with efforts to overturn election More conservatives break with Trump over election claims Peggy Noonan: 'Bogus dispute' by Trump 'doing real damage' MORE (R-Iowa) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee 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