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Overnight Defense: Lawmakers on edge over Iran tensions | Questions rise after State pulls personnel from Iraq | Senators demand briefing | House panel advances $690B Pentagon spending bill | Warren offers plan on climate threats to military

Overnight Defense: Lawmakers on edge over Iran tensions | Questions rise after State pulls personnel from Iraq | Senators demand briefing | House panel advances $690B Pentagon spending bill | Warren offers plan on climate threats to military
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Happy Wednesday 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: Lawmakers were on edge Wednesday over tensions with Iran after the State Department announced it is withdrawing personnel from Iraq.

Specifically, lawmakers in both parties demanded administration officials immediately brief them on their plans and strategies for Iran.

Diplomats pulled: Wednesday morning brought news that the State Department was ordering the departure of non-emergency employees from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil.

Visa services have been suspended at both locations.

But more details on the decision were murky. It's unclear which specific employees are affected and how many, for example. And officials have not elaborated on the nature of the threat that prompted the evacuation.

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Lawmaker reaction: Lawmakers in both parties reacted with a mix of alarm and anger that there has not been a full briefing yet.

"There are only two reasons for ordering their departure: We have credible intelligence that our people are at risk, or in preparation for military action in Iran," the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Kasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' MORE (N.J.), said at the top of a hearing on arms control agreements. "The Trump administration has not provided any information to this committee on the intelligence behind their decisions or what they plan to do in Iraq or Iran, and I have repeatedly reminded the administration of its responsibilities to this committee.

"Mr. Chairman, I hope you'll join me in asking the administration to immediately provide this committee with a briefing on the decision to order the departure of the embassy staff, the intelligence on what Iran may be planning to do and any plans to go to war with Iran," Menendez continued, addressing Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischWhy the US should rely more on strategy, not sanctions Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Senators blast Turkey's move to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque MORE (R-Idaho).

Later in the hearing, Risch said he himself has been briefed and that he's working on getting the full Senate a briefing.

Senate Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade Biden seeks to close any path for Trump win in race's final days MORE (R-S.C.), the chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, separately said the administration has not adequately briefed lawmakers.

"No, I feel we haven't been well informed and I'm writing a letter with Sen. Leahy today to try to get a briefing," Graham said Wednesday afternoon, referring to Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySchumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee.

On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerGraham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  MORE (D-N.Y.) called for the top defense officials to publicly testify this week.

"I am calling on Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dunford to come testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in an open setting before the end of the week," Schumer said.

Trump dismisses reports: Amid the tension with Iran, several reports have suggested tensions between Trump, who campaigned on ending U.S. wars, and his hawkish national security advisor, John BoltonJohn BoltonPresident Trump: To know him is to 'No' him Obama highlights Biden's tweet from a year ago warning Trump wasn't ready for pandemic Trump's former Homeland Security adviser on COVID-19: 'We could have saved more lives with a different, faster approach' MORE, who for years before joining the administration openly advocated striking Iran.

On Wednesday, Trump dismissed as "fake news" any reports about infighting in his administration over Iran.

"There is no infighting whatsoever," Trump tweeted. "Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision - it is a very simple process. All sides, views, and policies are covered. I'm sure that Iran will want to talk soon."

Trump, though, has dismissed reports of infighting before only for it to turn out to be true.

Also recall that yesterday he dismissed as "fake news" the New York Times report on planning to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East in the event of conflict with Iran, only to then immediately say he would "absolutely" do that.

"Now, would I do that? Absolutely," Trump said Tuesday. "But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that. And if we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that."

 

SPENDING BILL ADVANCES: A House subcommittee on Wednesday advanced an annual spending bill that would limit the Pentagon's ability to transfer money, a move made in response to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE's use of defense funds for his proposed border wall.

In a closed-door markup, the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee approved by voice vote the fiscal 2020 Pentagon spending measure. The legislation will now be taken up by the full Appropriations Committee for a vote.

"The subcommittee has sought throughout this legislative process to keep in mind the morale and the quality of life of all of our service members and their families. I believe we have taken tangible steps in this bill to refocus much-deserved attention on their issues of concern," subcommittee Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) said in a statement. "The subcommittee also protects and asserts the constitutional prerogatives of Congress so that funds appropriated are only to be spent on designated and authorized purposes."

Republicans oppose funding level: Though the bill advanced, Republicans blasted its overall funding level, which is $8 billion below the Pentagon's request.

"I support many of the investments made in this defense appropriations bill to strengthen our armed forces, such as improving our weapons systems and providing better health services for our troops," Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerBottom line GOP women's group rolls out six-figure campaign for Ernst Bottom line MORE (Texas), the committee's top Republican, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the Democrats have proposed an overall funding level that does not adequately address growing global threats, and it is less than requested, halting the progress we have made in improving military readiness."

Overall, the bill would provide $690.2 billion for the Defense Department, an increase of $15.8 billion over the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The total is split between $622.1 billion in base budget funding and $68.1 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account.

The measure is also consistent with an overall $733 billion defense budget when including money outside the scope of the legislation, such as military construction and Department of Energy nuclear programs. The administration requested a total defense budget of $750 billion.

Authorizers also eye action: Also Wednesday, members of the House Armed Services Committee unveiled a bill that would limit the amount of military construction funds the Pentagon is allowed to transfer between accounts.

The bill -- led by Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithGovernors urge negotiators to include top priorities in final defense policy bill Bottom line A long overdue discussion on Pentagon spending MORE (D-Wash.), and Reps. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoMark Kelly releases Spanish ad featuring Rep. Gallego Legal marijuana backers tout potential money for states Leadership matters: President's words and actions show he is unfit to lead our nation MORE (D-Ariz.), and John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiWuhan is the final straw: The world needs to divest from China GOP seizes on 'defund the police' to galvanize base Peace Corps faces uncertain future with no volunteers in field MORE (D-Calif.) -- would cap national emergency military construction authority at $250 million per emergency, according to a committee statement.

In addition to the spending cap, the bill would only allow money that cannot be spent for its intended purpose to be used for an emergency and would require additional information be provided to Congress when it is notified of the transfer.

 

WARREN'S LATEST PLAN: Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAll fracked up: Biden's Keystone State breakdown What do Google, banks and chicken salad have in common? Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit MORE (D-Mass.) has embraced the catchphrase that she "has a plan for that."

On Wednesday, she unveiled her latest plan -- one to tackle climate change issues in the military.

"In short, climate change is real, it is worsening by the day, and it is undermining our military readiness. And instead of meeting this threat head-on, Washington is ignoring it --  and making it worse," Warren wrote in a post on Medium.

"Nibbling around the edges of the problem is no longer enough  --  the urgency of the moment demands more," she added.

The specifics: The plan calls for the Pentagon to achieve net-zero carbon emissions on noncombat bases by 2030.

Warren said the "ambitious goal" is "consistent" with the Green New Deal, a climate plan championed by progressive firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: 'Plenty of people without college degrees could run this country better than Trump' Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to positive tests among Pence aides Ocasio-Cortez says Democrats must focus on winning White House for Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) that has been backed by several Democratic presidential candidates.

In addition to the net-zero goal for the bases, Warren's plan would require contractors who haven't achieved net-zero carbon emissions to pay a fee of 1 percent of the value of the contract. The fee would go into a fund to adapt the military to climate change.

The plan would also require the annual Pentagon budget to include dedicated funds to adapt to and mitigate climate change, as well as estimates on the effects of climate change-related events.

She would also create a new position of assistant secretary of Defense for energy and climate resiliency and require an annual report on the effects of climate change on the Pentagon.

Warren also said she plans to invest "billions of dollars" into a new, 10-year research program at the Pentagon focused on microgrids and advanced energy storage.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for James Byrne to be deputy Veterans Affairs secretary at 10 a.m. at the Russell Senate Office Building, room 418. https://bit.ly/2PW0maw

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Pentagon's audit plan at 10 a.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2118. https://bit.ly/2VAH14J

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on U.S.-Africa policy at 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2172. https://bit.ly/2HxU8tQ

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the nominees to be ambassadors to Slovakia, Sweden, Turkmenistan and Cabo Verde at 2 p.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. https://bit.ly/2VBGhMR

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on the dangers of reporting on human rights at 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2172. https://bit.ly/2YrRgVS

A House Armed Services subcommittee will hold a hearing on military personnel management at 2:30 p.m. at Rayburn 2212. https://bit.ly/2HkqNnC

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Air Force No. 2 civilian to take over as acting secretary

-- The Hill: DHS asks military to build six new tent cities at the southern border

-- The Hill: Cruz warns Space Force needed to prevent space pirates

-- The Hill: Opinion: Iran's coming response: Increased terrorism and cyber attacks?

-- Stars and Stripes: Senators push for new visas for Afghans supporting US mission

-- McClatchy: Immigrant soldiers now denied US citizenship at higher rate than civilians

-- Associated Press: Tensions over Iran show cracks in a time-tested alliance