Overnight Defense: Congress reaches deal preventing shutdown | Pentagon poised to be funded on time for first time in years | House GOP rejects effort to get Putin summit documents

Overnight Defense: Congress reaches deal preventing shutdown | Pentagon poised to be funded on time for first time in years | House GOP rejects effort to get Putin summit documents
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Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: Congress finally broke through and found a way to avert a government shutdown at the end of the month.

The House and Senate reached a deal Thursday both on the defense spending bill and a stopgap spending measure for those government agencies that won't get their spending bills voted on before the end of the fiscal year.

The deal still needs to pass both chambers and get signed by the president -- but the plan effectively prevents a government shutdown.

It also puts the Pentagon on track to be funded on time for the first time since fiscal year 2009.

The House and Senate conference committee agreed Thursday to a compromise bill that includes Pentagon spending, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education spending and the continuing resolution (CR).

Later, the House passed the compromise bill for military construction and veterans' affairs, the legislative branch and energy and water funding, sending the first so-called minibus to Trump's desk.

Strategy: President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE has threatened to shut down the government if he does not get funding for his proposed wall on the southern border.

Funding for the wall would be part of the Department of Homeland Security bill, but DHS funding right now is part of the CR. That punts that border wall fight until after the midterm elections.

By including the CR in the package with the Pentagon bill, Trump would have to veto defense spending if he intends to shut down the government.

The White House did not say if Trump was still considering a veto for the bill.

"We are looking forward to reviewing the bill when it is released," said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters.

What's in for defense: Congress has not yet released the conference report, so details are still scarce.

What we do know: Both the Senate and House version of the defense spending bill had a topline of about $675 billion.

Citing Senate Appropriations Committee staff, the Washington Examiner reported that the compromise bill would fund three Navy littoral combat ships and 93 F-35 fighter jets.

The administration had requested one littoral combat ship and 77 F-35s.

Another major difference between the two bills was how many troops would be added to the force. The Senate bill would have paid for 6,961 new troops, while the House bill would have followed the administration's request for 15,600 more troops. Where the conference committee landed has not come out yet.

 

HOUSE GOP REJECTS DEM PUSH FOR PUTIN SUMMIT DOCS: House Republicans on Thursday rejected a push by Democrats to obtain documents from the administration about President Trump's one-on-one summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee rallied behind a resolution that would have directed the executive branch to send to Congress "copies of all documents, records, communications, transcripts, summaries, notes, memoranda, and read-aheads" related to Trump's July summit with Putin in Helsinki.

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) introduced the measure as a "resolution of inquiry," which under House rules must be considered by a committee within 14 legislative days, or else its sponsors can force a vote on the House floor.

Lawmakers on the committee voted along party lines to reject the effort Thursday afternoon.

The Dem side: Democrats argued Thursday that the resolution was necessary to obtain information about the promises Trump may have made to Putin during the meeting.

"This meeting could have profound foreign policy implications and the president has already built a track record of giving away concessions with nothing in return," said Boyle.

"Here we are 60 days after the Helsinki summit and we still don't know what President Trump said or committed to," Boyle said.

The Republican side: But Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceOvernight Defense: Latest on Korea talks | Trump says summit results 'very exciting!' | Congress to get Space Force plan in February | Trump asked CIA about silent bombs Poll: House GOP candidate leads in California swing district Overnight Defense: Congress reaches deal preventing shutdown | Pentagon poised to be funded on time for first time in years | House GOP rejects effort to get Putin summit documents MORE (R-Calif.), who has been critical of Trump's performance in Helsinki, argued that the resolution would set a bad precedent for any president's future foreign policy efforts and infringe on executive privilege.

"I strongly disagree with the president's remarks in Helsinki. Vladimir Putin is not our friend and there is simply no comparing the actions of the United States with those of Putin's Russia," Royce said. "Ultimately, Helsinki was a squandered opportunity to challenge Vladimir Putin's false narratives on issues like Ukraine and Syria and ongoing interference in our democracy."

Royce argued, though, that the resolution "has implications far beyond our current president or our last president. It is about the ability of any president to engage with foreign leaders."

 

STATE APPROVES $2.6B ARMS DEALS FOR SOUTH KOREA: The State Department has approved two possible arms deals with South Korea worth a combined $2.6 billion, a Pentagon agency announced Thursday.

South Korea "is one of the closest allies in the INDOPACOM Theater," the notices from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said, referring to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Deal one: The first sale, worth $2.1 billion, is for six P-8A Patrol Aircraft and related equipment.

South Korea has been using P-3 Maritime Surveillance Aircraft for more than 25 years, according to the notice. Buying the new aircraft will allow the country to modernize and sustain its maritime surveillance capability for another 30 years, it added.

"The proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by enhancing Korea's naval capabilities to provide national defense and significantly contribute to coalition operations," the notice said.

Deal two: The second sale, worth $501 million, is for 64 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles used in the Patriot missile defense system.

South Korea "will use the Patriot missile system to improve its missile defense capability, defend its territorial integrity and deter threats to regional stability," the notice said. "The proposed sale will increase the defensive capabilities of the [South Korean] military to guard against hostile aggression and shield the allies who train and operate within South Korea's borders."

Timing: The planned upgrades to South Korea's military equipment come as its president has been trying to revive stalled talks between the United States and North Korea to eliminate Pyongyang's nuclear weapons.

 

HOW NORTH KOREA IS TESTING TRUMP'S DEALMAKING: President Trump is facing skepticism from inside and outside the administration about his belief that personal relationships and presidential negotiations are the key to resolving long-running U.S. foreign policy quagmires.

That tenet of his presidency came under renewed scrutiny recently when the White House announced it has started planning a second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Little progress on the nuclear weapons issue has been made since the initial summit in June. But much like that first meeting, Trump thinks he can negotiate a breakthrough if he gets in a room with Kim, with whom he has described having a warm relationship.

"I think what Trump sees is that he alone can make progress with North Korea," said Bruce Klingner, a former CIA division chief for Korea who is now a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "He has repeatedly touted his good relationship with Kim, though this has led to achieving no U.S. objective yet.

"And even when he blames China for stiffening North Korea's backbone ... he continues to tout his personal relationship with [Chinese President] Xi Jinping, though this also has not achieved any U.S. objectives."

The flip side: Trump last month canceled Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPositive Moon-Kim summit creates a diplomatic opening in North Korea The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Haley wasn’t invited to key White House meeting on refugee policy: report MORE's planned trip to North Korea, where he was expected to attempt to reinvigorate the talks and introduce the new U.S. special envoy, Stephen Biegun, who most recently worked as Ford Motor Co.'s vice president of international governmental affairs.

Since then, North Korea has reaffirmed to South Korea its summit pledge on complete denuclearization of the peninsula. And in what the Trump administration is interpreting as a sign of goodwill, Kim did not include intercontinental ballistic missiles in the country's annual Foundation Day parade.

Kim later sent Trump a letter requesting a second summit. The White House on Monday said a follow-up meeting between the two leaders is in the works.

Pompeo's trip was canceled after the administration received a letter from Kim Yong Chol, former head of the country's spy agency who has been leading talks for North Korea. The letter is said to have been belligerent enough to convince Trump that Pompeo's trip would not be worth it.

Andy Keiser, a principal at the lobbying firm Navigators Global who worked on the Trump transition team's national security section, said the administration views Kim Yong Chol as a hardliner playing games with the talks.

In that regard, Keiser argued, it makes sense to cut out middlemen like Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol and have Trump talk directly with Kim Jong Un.

"I think they're very clearly sending a message that, 'You've appointed this guy to deal with who I've appointed, Secretary Pompeo, and that line of communication is not acceptable to us and not working,'" Keiser said. " 'We're not going to dink around with this guy who doesn't appear to be interested in coming to a solution when you say that you are, Chairman Kim.' "

Within the administration: But there are those in the administration who are dubious of whether a top-down approach will yield the desired results. National security adviser John Bolton, in particular, is doubtful North Korea will ever give up its nuclear weapons voluntarily.

Hours before the White House announced it was planning a second summit, Bolton voiced his reservations about denuclearization.

"The possibility of another meeting between the two presidents obviously exists," Bolton said during an address to the conservative Federalist Society. "But President Trump can't make the North Koreans walk through the door he's holding open."

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will speak at the Heritage Foundation at 11 a.m. https://herit.ag/2CQTsRb 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: One of first female infantry Marines faces discharge over relationship with subordinate: report

-- The Hill: Neil deGrasse Tyson: Trump's Space Force not a 'crazy' idea

-- The Hill: US fighters intercept Russian bombers near Alaska

-- The Hill: Putin vows to strengthen army as he inspects Russia-China war games

-- The Hill: Treasury targets North Korean-run IT companies with sanctions