Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget

Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget
© Getty

Happy Thursday 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 Senate voted on Thursday to nix President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' MORE's national emergency declaration to construct the U.S.-Mexico border wall, setting up the first veto battle with his White House.

Senators voted 59-41 to pass the resolution of disapproval blocking Trump's declaration. Underscoring the broad base of concern over Trump's actions within the Republican caucus, 12 GOP senators broke rank and voted with all the Democrats.

The measure passed the House last month, 245-182.

Trump's first veto ahead: The resolution now heads to Trump's desk, where he is expected to use the first veto of his presidency to defeat it. Neither chamber has the votes to override the president, who tweeted shortly after the vote was closed: "VETO!"

No success in last ditch effort: Trump made an eleventh hour plea to Republican senators, reiterating his pledge to veto the resolution and signaling he could be open to future changes to his emergency powers, and even accusing Republicans who voted "yes" of standing with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBattle over reopening schools heats up Pelosi: Trump wearing a mask is 'an admission' that it can stop spread of coronavirus Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to reopening schools MORE (D-Calif.).

"Prominent legal scholars agree that our actions to address the National Emergency at the Southern Border and to protect the American people are both CONSTITUTIONAL and EXPRESSLY authorized by Congress." Trump said in a string of tweets.

But that argument failed to squash the momentum behind the resolution, which garnered support from various factions of the GOP caucus, including moderates, members of leadership and libertarian-leaning senators. 

Breaking ranks: The vote marks a significant setback for Trump, who has made his pledge to build the wall a focal point of his presidency. And it's the second rebuke for Trump in as many days after the Senate broke with him on support for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Republicans have been wary of breaking with Trump on border security but raised significant concerns about separation of powers questions sparked by his emergency declaration. GOP supporters of the resolution, such as Maine Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMore Republicans should support crisis aid for the Postal Service GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Republicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report MORE, cast their vote not as a rebuke of Trump's border wall but instead over a constitutional question about Congress's role in funding the government.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderRepublicans considering an outdoor stadium for Florida convention: report Sixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Randi Weingarten MORE (R-Tenn.), who is retiring at the end of the current Congress, argued that a vote against the emergency declaration was a "check on the executive [that] is a crucial source of our freedom."

In addition to Alexander and Collins, GOP Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases MORE (Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSixth GOP senator unlikely to attend Republican convention Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump backs another T stimulus, urges governors to reopen schools MORE (Alaska), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Advocacy groups pressure Senate to reconvene and boost election funding GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle MORE (Mo.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard Paul'Live with it' is the new GOP response to COVID — but no, we can't do that Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads How conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide MORE (Ky.), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general MORE (Pa.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (Ohio), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' probe report Senate Democrats push federal agencies to combat coronavirus scams and robocalls MORE (Kan.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad GOP Miami mayor does not commit to voting for Trump MORE (Fla.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Bottom line GOP rallies around Trump after firing of Manhattan US attorney MORE (Miss.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyChris Christie: I wouldn't have commuted Roger Stone sentence We haven't seen how low it can go Trump lashes out at Toomey, Romney after Roger Stone clemency criticism MORE (Utah) voted for the resolution blocking Trump's emergency declaration. 

 

SHANAHAN GRILLED ON BORDER WALL FUNDING: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanHouse Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Boeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January MORE was tested Thursday as Democratic senators grilled him on President Trump's plan to use military funding for his proposed border wall.

Shanahan sought to reassure senators on Trump's decision to declare a national emergency and use $3.6 billion in military construction funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

"Military construction on the border will not come at the expense of our people, our readiness, or our modernization," Shanahan told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

An audition for Trump? Shanahan was testifying at his first congressional hearing since becoming acting secretary, and his testimony was being viewed as a make-or-break moment in his audition to be nominated for the job permanently.

No military threat: Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked Shanahan during the hearing if he agreed with earlier testimony by the U.S. Northern Command chief that the situation at the southern border is not a "military threat."

"I agree with him," Shanahan responded.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, who testified alongside Shanahan, also said, "I agree."

"It's a security challenge, not a military threat," Dunford added.

Several other Democratic senators used their line of questioning to push Shanahan on the issue, including ranking member Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedData shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Sunday shows - FDA commissioner declines to confirm Trump claim that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases are 'harmless' Senate Democrat: Russian bounties intel 'the type of information that has to be seized by the president' MORE (D-R.I.), who in his opening statement said the wall has "arguably ... zero military utility."

No list, yet: Shanahan sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security last month asking for a list of projects that the Pentagon is being asked to support as part of the emergency declaration.

He told Reed on Thursday that he has not yet received a response, but that, "I expect that this week."

Reed shot back that for "an emergency, this seems to be a pretty casual approach to the issue."

Shanahan also told Reed that he does not yet have a "final list" of projects the Pentagon will take money from to reach the $3.6 billion being asked for by Trump.

Later in the hearing, Sen. Angus KingAngus KingKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs The Hill's Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Reid Wilson says political winners are governors who listened to scientists and public health experts; 12 states record new highs for seven-day case averages MORE (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, said he finds it "hard to believe" there's no list.

"You've had a month," King said.

Reed also secured a commitment from Shanahan to deliver a list by the end of the day of all unobligated military construction funds to see what projects are at risk.

"I would like that list today, Mr. Secretary," Reed told Shanahan. "We'll have that list so that everyone will know what project they have to worry about going forward. Is that it? That's the deal?"

"That's the deal," Shanahan replied.

Kaine not pleased: Shanahan's commitment, though, raised the ire of Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who has been asking service secretaries for the list since the declaration was made.

"I feel completely sandbagged," Kaine said. "You're going to send it to us today after the vote on the emergency declaration? ... This information is highly relevant to the senators who are voting on this emergency declaration because the question is, should the president be able to declare a nonmilitary emergency -- that's what the military has testified -- and then ransack the Pentagon budget."

Warren not pleased either: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Trump defends Roger Stone move: He was target of 'Witch Hunt' Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' MORE (D-Mass.), also provided some sharp questioning for Shanahan, pressing him on the Pentagon's request for $164 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) account in fiscal year 2020.

Shanahan denied that the Pentagon war fund has become a slush fund.

"What we're really talking about here is the establishment of a slush fund to hide what's happening with defense spending and get it out from underneath the statutory caps," Warren said.

"There is no slush fund," Shanahan replied.

Warren highlighted that the OCO request for fiscal 2020 is 140 percent higher than fiscal 2019's $69 billion for OCO.

"So tell me, did the cost of supporting our overseas operations suddenly increase by 140 percent last year?" she asked Shanahan.

"Senator, they did not," he replied.

 

 

PENTAGON CHIEF: NO 'COST PLUS 50' FOR ALLIES: Shanahan also on Thursday said the Pentagon will not ask ally nations to pay the full cost of stationing U.S. forces on their soil, plus 50 percent more.

Shanahan was asked by Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanBottom line US security starts in the Arctic Senate confirms nation's first African American service chief MORE (R-Alaska) during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the Trump administration's so-called cost plus 50 formula.

"Senator, we won't do cost plus 50 percent," Shanahan said.

The background: Numerous outlets have reported that the administration is drafting new demands that Japan and Germany -- and eventually other countries where U.S. troops are based -- pay the full price of keeping U.S. forces in their nation, plus another 50 percent payment for the special right to host them.

The new formula, first reported by Bloomberg, could mean that the United States would ask countries to pay at least five times more than they do now.

'Erroneous' reports: Shanahan said those reports are "erroneous."

"We're not going to run a business and we're not going to run a charity," he told lawmakers.

"The important part is that people pay their fair share and payment comes in lots of different forms. [It] could be contributions, like in Afghanistan. But at the end of the day, people need to carry their fair share and not everyone can contribute, but it is not about the cost plus 50 percent."

How it works vs. what Trump wants: Countries that host permanent U.S. military installations traditionally pay a portion of the costs to house and equip U.S. forces, but the payment comes in various forms. Japan and South Korea make cash contributions, while Germany pays by covering the bill for land, infrastructure and construction of the military facilities, as well as waiving taxes and customs duties.

President Trump, however, has repeatedly said such payments aren't enough and has reportedly pressed the cost plus 50 model for months.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, have lambasted the idea as disastrous for American diplomacy.

Shanahan sidesteps Boeing controversy: Shanahan, who worked for Boeing for 30 years before entering the Pentagon, said on Thursday that he has not spoken to anyone in the Trump administration about the recent string of deadly 737 Max 8 passenger jet crashes.

Shanahan was asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) about Sunday's crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8, which killed all 157 people on board. Another such aircraft flown by Lion Air crashed in Indonesia last October, killing 189 people. 

Shanahan said he's "not spoken to anyone regarding the 737 Max," and had not been briefed at all on any of the problems relating to it.

"I firmly believe we should let the regulators investigate the incidents," he said. "My heart goes out and my condolences to the families and the employees involved in the Lion Air incident and Ethiopian Airlines incident."

Before President Trump nominated him as deputy Defense secretary in March 2017, Shanahan served as the senior vice president of airplane programs at Boeing, where he oversaw the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs.

  

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper will speak on changing the acquisition approach for the Air Force at 9 a.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Graham blocks resolution calling for Mueller report to be made public

-- The Hill: Navy names new ship class after Navajo people

-- The Hill: Top Pentagon officials say Google work is 'benefiting the Chinese military'

-- The Hill: 5 things to know about the Boeing 737 Max

-- The Hill: Israeli military says rockets fired at Tel Aviv

-- The Hill: Pompeo says all US diplomats have left Venezuela