Overnight Defense: House votes to end US support for Saudis in Yemen | Vote puts Trump in veto bind | Survey finds hazards in military housing | Senators offer new bill on Russia sanctions

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, 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: The House on Wednesday easily passed a bill that would require President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE to withdraw U.S. military support from the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen.

In a 248-177 vote that largely fell along party lines, the House sent the war powers resolution to the Senate, where it is also expected to pass and confront Trump with the possibility of issuing the first veto of his presidency.


"The only patriotic thing, if you care about our troops, if you care about American interests, if you care about the outrage that the Saudis are inflicting on Americans and on the world, then the only patriotic thing to do is to vote for this resolution," Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaThe Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president House and Senate head for showdown on must-pass defense bill Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (D-Calif.), the resolution's chief House sponsor, said ahead of the vote.

What the resolution does: The resolution that the House passed would direct the president to withdraw U.S. military forces in or "affecting" Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda or associated forces.

The United States has been providing logistics, intelligence sharing and arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Previously, the U.S. military also provided aerial refueling to coalition jets, but the administration suspended that support in November.

The background: The vote comes at a time when congressional anger at Saudi Arabia over last year's killing of U.S.-based journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi is being reignited.

The Trump administration declined to follow a congressionally mandated deadline Friday to report on whether Saudi leadership, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is responsible for Khashoggi's slaying and should be sanctioned.

The Trump administration previously levied sanctions on some Saudi officials over the killing, but lawmakers have demanded stronger action. Trump, though, has resisted anything that could affect the U.S.-Saudi alliance.

Last year, searching for a way to punish the Saudis, the Senate passed a resolution similar to the one that passed the House on Wednesday to withdraw U.S. military support in Yemen. The measure did not advance in the House, which was controlled by the GOP at the time.

But Democrats, upon taking control of the House, fulfilled their pledge to prioritize a vote on the war in Yemen, making it their first major foreign policy vote of the year.

What else happened at the votes: In Wednesday's votes, the House also approved 252-177 a Republican-offered amendment to the bill meant to ensure the United States can continue intelligence sharing with "any foreign country."

The House also unanimously approved a GOP-offered amendment saying it is in the U.S. national security interest to combat anti-Semitism, which was offered amid an unrelated controversy over a tweet from Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarLA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' NYT's Friedman repeatedly says 's---hole' in tirade against Trump on CNN Foreign-born lawmaker: Trump's not going to tell me to 'go back to my country' MORE (D-Minn.) that was condemned as anti-Semitic and for which she has since apologized.

Veto threats linger: The White House has issued a veto threat against the Yemen resolution. The statement of administration policy called the resolution "flawed" because U.S. forces are not directly involved in hostilities in Yemen.

The White House also warned the bill would "harm bilateral relationships" by defining hostilities as including "defense cooperation" such as aerial refueling.

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has more here on how the vote puts Trump in a veto bind.


SURVEY: MILITARY FAMILIES IN PRIVATE HOUSING FACE NUMEROUS SAFETY HAZARDS: More than 50 percent of military families living on U.S. bases found their privately managed military housing dissatisfying, with issues including black mold, vermin infestations and lead paint, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The survey, commissioned by the nonpartisan armed services organization Military Family Advisory Network, collected responses from nearly 15,000 families across 46 states who currently or recently lived in privatized military housing.

It found that 56 percent of families had a "negative or very negative experience" in privately managed military housing, while 16 percent of respondents had a positive experience. 

What the survey found: "Military families are living in dangerous situations with reports of the existence of black mold, lead paint, faulty wiring, poor water quality, pesticides, and a wide variety of vermin, insects, and other animals (e.g., bats, skunks, and squirrels) in their homes," the group stated in a summary of the survey findings.

"Families report illnesses with life-long implications caused by poor housing conditions," and those that file reports and request remediation are "often denied or ignored," it added.

"Our results show a systemic problem that does not discriminate among location, rank, or branch of service."

Conflicting reports: The survey results contradict the findings of reports that the Defense Department has released over recent years, which have said that almost 90 percent of responding military families would recommend privatized military housing.

But those Pentagon reports rely on data collected by the private real estate firms that operate base housing. The companies' compensation from the military is partially determined by the results of satisfaction surveys, according to Reuters.

"Through our preliminary research it has become apparent that there is a disconnect between our findings related to resident satisfaction and what has been reported by privatized housing companies," the Military Family Advisory Network report states.

Commercial company execs grilled: The survey was released hours before Senate Armed Services Committee hearings Wednesday focused on living conditions on U.S. bases. At one panel, lawmakers grilled top executives from the five main companies that operate 200,000 homes on bases.

Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Democratic challenger to McConnell raises .5 million on first day of campaign Mark Kelly raised .2M for Arizona Senate bid MORE (R-Ariz.), an Air Force veteran, called the results of the survey "disgusting" and said it demonstrated "systemic issues."

"This is multiple layers of failure," McSally said. "I hope all of you can look these service members and their families in the eye and tell them that you're sorry, but then do the right thing starting now. I hope you feel embarrassed."


SENATORS REINTRODUCE LEGISLATION FOR NEW SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA: A bipartisan group of senators is renewing their effort to slap new sanctions on Russia over its 2016 election interference and activities in Ukraine and Syria. 

The bill, spearheaded by Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate passes .5B border bill, setting up fight with House Senate to vote on blocking Trump's Saudi arms deal as soon as this week MORE (D-N.J.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump shares Graham quote calling Ocasio-Cortez 'anti-America' Graham: Trump should focus on policy, not personal attacks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke MORE (R-S.C.), includes a wide array of new financial penalties targeting Russia's energy sectors, financial institutions and "political figures, oligarchs, and family members and other persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of Vladimir Putin."

In addition to sanctions, it would also require a two-thirds vote for the United States to leave NATO and force the State Department to determine if Russia is a state sponsor of terrorism. 

'Most hard-hitting': Graham added that the sanctions included in the bill, which he previously termed the "sanctions bill from hell," will be "the most hard-hitting ever imposed."

Menendez, meanwhile, said the sanctions bill comes as Congress is reaching a "boiling point" on Trump's "willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression."

"We are introducing a proposal to actually address the realities of the Kremlin threat in a holistic way, all while sending a crystal clear message to our adversaries that the U.S Congress will protect our institutions, allies and values even if the President chooses not to do so," Menendez said. 

A refresher: Trump's warmer rhetoric toward Russia has sparked years of heartburn for lawmakers, who have repeatedly and publicly broken with the administration's policy toward Moscow. 

Senators initially introduced the legislation in August 2018 as lawmakers grew increasingly concerned that Russia would try to interfere in the 2018 elections. 

But talk of passing new sanctions immediately ran into roadblocks with some Republicans questioning if new penalties were needed after lawmakers passed a Russia sanctions bill in 2017 over the opposition of the White House. 

Pompeo says US will hold Russia accountable in poisoning: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump's Iran policy proves the primacy of US power — but to what end? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke State Department raises concerns about Sweden's treatment of detained American rapper MORE told his Russian counterpart on Tuesday that the U.S. would "hold Russia accountable" for its role in the poisoning of an ex-spy in the United Kingdom last year.


Pompeo told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the U.S. would impose penalties as required by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act.

The U.K., the U.S. and international observers have blamed Russia for the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter during a March 2018 incident. Both were left gravely ill after being exposed to a nerve agent near their home in Salisbury.



The Department of Homeland Security's Assistant Secretary for threat prevention and security policy Elizabeth Neumann will discuss "Building an Effective Approach to Terrorism Prevention" at 11 a.m. at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.



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