Overnight Defense: Dem chair rejects Pentagon request to use $1B for border wall | House fails to override Trump veto | Pelosi at AIPAC vows Israel won't be 'wedge issue'

Happy Tuesday 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.

 

TOPLINE: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithIran talks unlikely despite window of opportunity GOP lawmakers call for provisions barring DOD funds for border wall to be dropped Warren's pledge to avoid first nuclear strike sparks intense pushback MORE (D-Wash.) on Tuesday rejected a Pentagon request to move $1 billion from counter-drug funding to help build President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE's promised border wall, threatening that such a transfer would jeopardize the Department of Defense's (DOD) ability to move money in the future.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanDefense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall Why Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary MORE late Monday said he had authorized moving up to $1 billion to block "up to 11 drug-smuggling corridors along the border" by building 57 miles of 18-foot-high pedestrian fencing in support of Trump's Feb. 15 national emergency declaration.

ADVERTISEMENT

But Smith in a letter sent to the Pentagon's chief financial officer, David Norquist, said the committee "denies this request" and "does not approve the proposed use of Department of Defense funds to construct additional physical barriers and roads or install lighting in the vicinity of the United States border."

Shanahan takes heat: Smith, who released the letter as Shanahan testified on Tuesday before the committee on the Pentagon's fiscal 2020 budget request, said during the hearing that taking defense dollars for a border structure would be "unbelievably irresponsible."

But he doesn't need approval: The move is largely symbolic, however, as the Pentagon is still legally able to move ahead with such a transfer.

Traditionally, Congress allows the Pentagon to reprogram funding that has already been appropriated in order to quickly respond to threats and changes in the world.

DOD officials must notify Congress in advance and lawmakers are then given the chance to agree or deny the request, though the Pentagon is not required by law to obtain their approval before it moves forward.

Threats made: Smith warned that should the department move ahead on the $1 billion transfer, "the result of that likely is that the Appropriations Committee in particular would no longer give the Pentagon reprogramming authority and I think that's unfortunate because they need it."

Shanahan acknowledged that officials "understand the significant downsides of losing what amounts to a privilege."

"It's a very difficult discussion," he said. "The conversation took place prior to the declaration of a national emergency, it was part of the consulting that went on. ... We said here are the risks longer term to the department, and those risks were weighed."

The background: The Trump administration is seeking to use $6.1 billion of Pentagon funding to build barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. A total $2.5 billion is expected to be taken from counter-drug programs and $3.6 billion from military construction funds, as part of two separate executive actions.

Shanahan notified Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network DOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign MORE of the transfer in a letter, released Monday night, which said he had authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and executing up to $1 billion in support to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Patrol.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have objected to the use of Pentagon funds to build a wall, citing harm to military readiness.

 

HOUSE FAILS TO OVERRIDE TRUMP VETO ON BORDER WALL: The House failed Tuesday to override the first veto of President Trump's tenure, a vote led by Democrats seeking to uphold a measure unwinding the president's national emergency declaration at the southern border.

The chamber voted 248-181 to override the veto, falling short of the roughly 290 votes, or two-thirds majority, needed. Trump issued the veto earlier this month to push back on a rebuke from Congress over his bid to reallocate Pentagon funding to build a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The vast majority of Republicans in the lower chamber stood with Trump on Tuesday over the veto.

"The men and women who put their lives on the line every single day to secure our borders deserve all the tools they need to do the job, including a border wall," Rep. Tom GravesJohn (Tom) Thomas Graves5 Republicans who could replace Isakson in Georgia's Senate race The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Democrats see golden opportunity to take Georgia Senate seat MORE (R-Ga.) said during debate. "Through President Trump's proclamation and his veto of House Joint Resolution 4, he's acting decisively to finally address this crisis under the authority provided to him by Congress."

Small break in party lines: But 14 GOP lawmakers opted to break party lines and rebuke the president's emergency declaration for a second time.

Republican critics of Trump's national emergency questioned whether the move violated the Constitution. Others argued shifting billions of dollars from the Defense Department could have a negative impact on military readiness.

"We all agree with the need for border security, so I want to be clear on that, but we need to separate out the need for border security with how we get there. And there are constitutional concerns here," GOP Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickHouse Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Ensuring quality health care for those with intellectual disabilities and autism House Democrats target 2020 GOP incumbents in new ad MORE (Pa.) told CNN ahead of the vote Tuesday.  

Trump's response :Following the vote, Trump took to social media to praise GOP lawmakers for standing with the administration on the issue.

"Thank you to the House Republicans for sticking together and the BIG WIN today on the Border. Today's vote simply reaffirms Congressional Democrats are the party of Open Borders, Drugs and Crime!" he tweeted.  

Democrats have been vocal in their disapproval of Trump's declaration that he issued in mid-February, blasting it as an abuse of power for a partisan priority.

 

PELOSI AT AIPAC: 'WE WILL NEVER ALLOW ANYONE TO MAKE ISRAEL A WEDGE ISSUE': House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico This week: House jump-starts effort to prevent shutdown Schumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill MORE (D-Calif.) stressed at a pro-Israel conference Tuesday that congressional support for Israel remains bipartisan, saying no one should be allowed to make it a wedge issue.

"Israel and America are connected now and forever. We will never allow anyone to make Israel a wedge issue," Pelosi said during her address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference Tuesday morning.

"That pledge is proudly honored in this Congress, where support for Israel remains ironclad and bipartisan," she added.

Attacks from Trump officials: Her remarks come after President Trump has criticized Democrats as "anti-Israel" and "anti-Jewish" in recent weeks, seemingly trying to drive a wedge between voters focused on Israel and the Democratic Party.

Vice President Pence addressed the conference at the Monday morning general session, saying the Democratic Party had "been co-opted by people who promote rank anti-Semitic rhetoric and work to undermine the broad American consensus of support for Israel."

Controversy persists: Pelosi's appearance at AIPAC comes weeks after she had to manage a Democratic caucus divided on how to respond to a controversy over comments from Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar says she hopes Netanyahu not reelected Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Omar responds to family of 9/11 victim who called her out at anniversary ceremony MORE (D-Minn.) criticizing AIPAC that were widely condemned as anti-Semitic. 

Caught between lawmakers who wanted to condemn anti-Semitism and Omar supporters who said she was being unfairly singled out, Pelosi ended up bringing to the floor a resolution that broadly condemned hate in many forms.

Trump's remarks targeting Democrats as anti-Israel, and his promotion of the so-called Jexodus movement that seeks to split Jewish voters from the Democratic Party, followed that controversy.

Pelosi confronts issue :Pelosi, a regular at AIPAC's conference, referenced the Omar controversy in her speech Tuesday, touting that the "the full House came together to condemn the anti-Semitic myth of dual loyalty and all forms of bigotry."

"In our democratic societies, we should welcome legitimate debate at how best to honor our values and to advance our priorities without questioning loyalty or patriotism," she said.

"I simply declare that to be anti-Semitic is to be anti-American," she added to applause. "It has no place in our country."

 

COMMANDANT SAYS COAST GUARD YET TO RECOVER FROM SHUTDOWN: The commandant of the Coast Guard said Tuesday that it has not yet fully recovered from the effects of the partial government shutdown, which ended in January.

"I think we're 75 percent reconstituted," said Admiral Karl Schultz in a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the budget.

"Some things we never get back. We had to defer boat maintenance periods, those are our fleets of hundreds of small boats, cutter maintenance periods, some of that just got pushed to the right. We had furloughed contracting officers, so you just can't do that kind of work. That is not recoverable," he said in response to a question from Rep. Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardTrump rips Puerto Rico as 'corrupt' as storm approaches Schumer blasts Trump officials: Diverting FEMA money to border 'backwards and cruel' Trump administration pulling millions from FEMA, other agencies to send to border MORE (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee.

But assurances made: Schultz offered assurances that the Coast Guard would be ready ahead of June 1, when hurricane season begins.

"In the next month or so, I think we're going to be back to a good place," he said.

A refresher: President Trump in late December instigated the government shutdown in an attempt to force Congress to fund his proposed border wall. Congress eventually allocated just $1.35 billion of the $5.7 billion Trump requested for border barriers, prompting Trump to declare a state of emergency to reprogram military funds for the wall.

The record 35-day partial shutdown hit the Coast Guard, which is funded through the same Department of Homeland Security bill that deals with border security. Most Coast Guard employees had to work without pay, while some employees and contractors were furloughed.

"For an organization that's struggling with readiness, the shutdown does not help that. It sort of exacerbates that," Schultz said.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Army Secretary Mark Esper, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G50. 

U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Adm. Philip Davidson, U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Robert Abrams and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific security Randall Schriver will testify before the House Armed Services Committee on "National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activities in the Indo-Pacific" at 10 a.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. 

The Senate Armed Services seapower subpanel will hear from Navy officials on the service's shipbuilding program at 10 a.m. in Russell Senate Office Building, room 232A. 

The Pentagon's comptroller and chief financial officer David Norquist will testify before the House Budget Committee on the Defense Department's FY-20 budget request at 10 a.m. in the Cannon House Office Building, room 210. 

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson will speak on the administration's fiscal 2020 defense budget request at 10 a.m. at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. 

Kenneth Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security; Gen. John Raymond, commander, Air Force Space Command; Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander, Space And Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command; and Cristina Chaplain, director, Acquisition And Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office, will testify before the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee on military space operations at 2:30 p.m. in Russell 222. 

The Senate Armed Services cybersecurity subcommittee will hear from outside experts on cybersecurity responsibilities of the defense industrial base at 2:30 p.m. in Russell 232A. 

The House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Reserve Component Duty Status Reform" at 4 p.m. in Rayburn 2118. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Trump signs executive order on protecting US from potential EMP attacks

-- The Hill: Pentagon: Milestone ICBM test intercept test a success

-- The Hill: Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states reject US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights

-- The Hill: Shanahan tells House panel he ordered new review of 2017 Niger ambush

-- The Hill: Opinion: Trump's Golan Heights announcement will backfire for Netanyahu -- and US