Overnight Defense: $717B defense policy bill speeding toward finish line | Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions over American pastor | Senators offer bills to defend NATO ties

Overnight Defense: $717B defense policy bill speeding toward finish line | Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions over American pastor | Senators offer bills to defend NATO ties
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THE TOPLINE: The annual defense policy bill is speeding toward the finish line, getting easy passage in the House on Thursday.

The House passed the $717 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a 359-54 vote.

"This bill takes a major step forward in rebuilding our military, reforming the Pentagon and better preparing this country to deal with the national security challenges which lay before us," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Armed Services chairman laments 'fringe elements in politics' Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses Woodward's book as 'fiction' | House moves to begin defense bill talks with Senate | Trump warns Syria after attack on rebel areas | Trump, South Korean leader to meet at UN MORE (R-Texas) said on the House floor.

What's in and what's not: We've written about the highlights before, but to recap:

The NDAA would authorize about $639 billion for the base budget of the Pentagon and defense programs of the Energy Department. It would also allow for another $69 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

The bill follows with the administration's request for a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops, an increase of about 15,600 troops across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, and 77 F-35 fighter jets. On ships, the bill exceeds the administration's request, for a total 13 new ships.

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What would have been the most controversial provision of the bill was jettisoned during House-Senate negotiations to reconcile each chamber's version. That's the provision from the initial Senate-passed version blocking President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE's deal to save Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE.

Instead, the final bill aligns with the initial House-passed version and would ban the government from contracting with ZTE and Huawei, another Chinese telecommunications company, or companies that do business with those two.

Also dropped from the final bill was a House-passed provision that would have blocked endangered species protections for the greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken for 10 years.

One closely watched provision that did make it into the final bill was Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Mattis dismisses reports of his exit: 'I love it here' Publisher says Woodward book sales largest in its history MORE's request for an ability to waive sanctions on partner countries that have bought Russian arms in the past but want to now buy U.S. weapons.

Mattis did not win a separate fight with Congress over provisions in the bill on Turkey. The final bill would block transfers of the F-35 to Ankara until the Pentagon completes an assessment of U.S.-Turkish relations.

What's next: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders hits Feinstein over Kavanaugh allegations: Now it’s clear why she did nothing for months On The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' McConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal MORE teed up the bill Thursday for debate in the Senate next week.

The quick House-Senate negotiations and passage are keeping it on track to become law before the start of the fiscal year for the first time since fiscal 1997.

 

TURKEY SANCTIONS OVER PASTOR?: Trump and Vice President Pence on Thursday threatened Turkey with sanctions over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

"The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being," Trump tweeted Thursday. "He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!"

That followed Pence's comments to a conference on religious freedom.

"And to President Erdoğan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: Release pastor Andrew Brunson now, or be prepared to face the consequences," Pence said.

Brunson was released from prison Wednesday, but was placed under House arrest. The Trump administration wants him released altogether.

But … : The Treasury Department, which administers financial sanctions, has not announced new penalties for Turkey over Brunson's detainment. Trump did not specify when further sanctions on Turkey would be imposed or announced.

Who is Brunson?: Brunson worked in Turkey for 23 years as a pastor before he was detained more than a year ago for an alleged connection to a failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdoğan in 2016.

Brunson was accused of aiding the opposition Kurdistan Workers' Party and working with Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric who Erdogan claims orchestrated the failed coup.

Turkey's response: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu indicated the sanctions threats won't work.

"Noone [sic] dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception," he tweeted.

 

NATO BILLS: A bipartisan pair of a California lawmakers are out with a bill meant to signal U.S. support to NATO following President Trump's rocky appearance in Brussels earlier this month.

House Armed Services Committee member Jimmy PanettaJames Varni PanettaOvernight 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 Overnight Defense: 7B defense policy bill speeding toward finish line | Trump threatens Turkey with sanctions over American pastor | Senators offer bills to defend NATO ties MORE (D) on Thursday introduced the No NATO Withdrawal Act -- cosponsored by Republican Rep. Steve Knight -- to "reassert Congressional support" for the alliance.

"The NATO alliance is a pillar of international peace, stability, and security, and serves as a deterrent against aggression and destabilization," Panetta said in a statement.

"In the face of Russia's threats and attacks on American and allied interests, Congress must take a stand and solidify our commitment to our allies."

The bill would specifically prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to withdraw the United States from NATO.

Meanwhile in the Senate: A bipartisan quartet in the Senate introduced their own bill Thursday to explicitly prohibit the president from withdrawing from NATO without Senate approval.

Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KainePoll: Kaine leads GOP challenger by 19 points in Va. Senate race GOP offers to ban cameras from testimony of Kavanaugh accuser Corey Stewart fires aide who helped bring far-right ideas to campaign: report MORE (D-Va.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Colorado governor sets up federal PAC before potential 2020 campaign Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (R-Colo.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedNew York Times: Trump mulling whether to replace Mattis after midterms Overnight Defense: Biden honors McCain at Phoenix memorial service | US considers sending captured ISIS fighters to Gitmo and Iraq | Senators press Trump on ending Yemen civil war Senators press Trump administration on Yemen civil war MORE (D-R.I.), and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Another recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief R-E-S-P-E-C-T: One legacy of Franklin and McCain is up to us MORE (R-Ariz.) introduced the bill that requires the president to seek the advice and consent of the Senate to modify or terminate U.S. membership in NATO and formalizes the Senate's opposition to withdrawing from the treaty.

If the president attempted to withdraw from NATO without Senate approval, the bill would also authorize the Senate Legal Counsel to challenge the administration in court.

"Regrettably, President Trump's mistreatment of our closest allies has raised doubts about America's commitment to the transatlantic alliance and the values of defense," McCain said in a statement. "The United States Senate provided its advice and consent to the North Atlantic Treaty, and remains overwhelmingly supportive of the transatlantic alliance. In the future, the Senate must be prepared to defend its constitutional role."

Why: Trump, who has long demanded that NATO countries pay more for defense, earlier this month rattled the NATO summit in Brussels when he raised concerns the U.S. would withdraw from the transatlantic alliance it helped create.

He reportedly told a closed-door meeting the United States would "go it alone" if alliance members don't acquiesce to his spending demands.

Allies agreed in 2014 to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense by 2024. Trump floating raising the goal to 4 percent.

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Trump hits media over Russia coverage: 'They're dying to see us make a little bit of a mistake'

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