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Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales

Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales
© Greg Nash

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.

 

THE TOPLINE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE said Tuesday the U.S. is "not going to need an exit strategy" if war broke out with Iran.

"You're not going to need an exit strategy," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, prompting laughter. "I don't need exit strategies."

"We would love to be able to negotiate a deal if they want to. If they don't want to, that's fine, too," Trump added. "But we would love to be able to, and frankly, they might as well do it soon."

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Timing: Trump's comments are the latest move to heighten tensions between the U.S. and Iran following Iran's downing of a U.S. drone last week.

Trump later ordered and then called off a decision to strike Iran in retaliation.

On Monday, the president announced additional sanctions against the country's supreme leader and other top officials.

And he told The Hill in an exclusive interview that he did not need congressional authorization to launch strikes on the country.

Iran's reaction: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blasted the "outrageous and idiotic" sanctions on Tuesday, saying the White House is "afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do."

"Obviously, the people of Iran are great people," Trump said Tuesday. "I know many of them. I lived in New York -- I haven't been there very much in the last two and a half years -- but I know many Iranians living in New York, and they're fantastic people."

He added: "I have many friends that are Iranian, and it's very sad what's happening to that country."

In the Senate: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says 'no concerns' after questions about health Overnight Health Care: Trump says he hopes Supreme Court strikes down ObamaCare | FDA approves remdesivir as COVID-19 treatment | Dems threaten to subpoena HHS over allegations of political interference at CDC The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he's willing to vote on a controversial amendment that would require Congress to approve any military action against Iran, but warned colleagues it could signal disunity in Washington to a foreign adversary.

McConnell said he's open to voting on a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats have no case against Amy Coney Barrett — but that won't stop them Pence-Harris debate draws more than 50M viewers, up 26 percent from 2016 Five takeaways from the vice presidential debate MORE (D-Va.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Judge tosses land management plans after ousting Pendley from role | Trump says he could out-raise Biden with calls to Wall Street, oil execs | Supreme Court to review Trump border wall funding, asylum policies OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' | Court strikes down Obama-era rule targeting methane leaks from public lands drilling | Feds sued over no longer allowing polluters to pay for environmental projects  Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' MORE (D-N.M.) that would block funding for military action against Iran without prior congressional approval.

The legislation also has support from Republican Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEnd the American military presence in Somalia Ted Cruz won't wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test MORE (Utah).

Dem worries: Democrats feared that McConnell would try to bypass a debate on Iran by voting as soon as Wednesday to cut off debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would be the vehicle for the Iran amendment.

But McConnell put those anxieties to rest Tuesday.

"We're not opposed to having the vote and we're working on having that vote, passing NDAA and doing the supplemental [border spending bill], all this week," he said.

He urged colleagues, however, to vote against the Iran war authorization amendment.

"I don't think it's good for this country to see the Iranians observing us arguing over all this, either. So my hope is that it will be defeated. We'll find out by how much of a margin but we hope to defeat it," he said.

McConnell argued that a war authorization "is not required under this set of circumstances."

"Nobody is advocating going to war with Iran. Not the president, not the secretary of State, none of the generals. No one," he said.

In the House: On the other side of Capitol Hill, a bipartisan pair of congressmen, including a vocal ally of Trump, on Tuesday unveiled a measure to prevent the president from conducting a military strike against Iran without congressional approval.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment, offered by Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaExpiring benefits raise economic stakes of stalled stimulus talks Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy Watchdog to audit Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds on defense contractors MORE (D-Calif.) and Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzCongressional antitrust report rips tech firms for stifling competition Loeffler tweets edited video showing Trump taking down coronavirus in wrestling match Why is Florida screaming about the pay-to-vote system it created? MORE (R-Fla.), would prohibit funding for U.S. military action against Iran unless Congress has declared war or enacted another specific statutory authorization.

"Last week, we watched President Trump come within minutes of striking Iran and involving the United States in yet another trillion-dollar war in the Middle East," Khanna said in a statement. "President Trump campaigned on ending costly wars overseas but given the advisors he chose and his recent risky actions, he is not living up to that promise."

Gaetz, who frequently backs the president, added that "Congress must resolve" to make sure any conflict with Iran is initiated within the constraints of the Constitution.

  

SENATE PANEL ADVANCES BILL TO RESTRICT EMERGENCY ARMS SALES: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced a bill on Tuesday that would restrict the president's ability to approve emergency sales without a congressional review period.

The bill advanced by voice vote with some Republicans expressing opposition to the legislation.

The bill, dubbed the Saudi Arabia False Emergencies (SAFE) Act, comes as a response to President Trump's decision to use the emergency provision of the Arms Export Control Act in an attempt to muscle through 22 arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies without the typical congressional review period.

"This bipartisan bill directly addresses these abuses by restricting these emergency authorities to only our closest security treaty allies and security partner countries," said Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWatchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Kasie Hunt to host lead-in show for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' Senators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report MORE (D-N.J.), the committee's ranking member and sponsor of the bill.

"These changes do not affect the 22 sales, which we dealt with by the resolutions of disapproval last week. But it will hopefully prevent us being faced with future uses of this nature, regardless of whether a Republican or a Democrat is occupying the White House."

Uphill climb: Despite advancing out of the Foreign Relations Committee, the bill faces an uphill climb to get a floor vote without committee 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) and Republican leadership's support.

Under normal procedures, the arms sale law requires a 30-day congressional review period before a sale is finalized.

But citing threats from Iran, the administration invoked a provision of the law allowing sales to go through immediately in emergency cases for the 22 sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

What's happened so far: Still, last week, the Senate approved resolutions to the block the deals. A resolution that would block two sales passed 53-45, while another that would block the other 20 sales passed 51-45.

The House is expected to follow suit, but Trump is expected to veto the resolutions, and neither chamber is expected to have enough votes to overturn the veto.

As part of the deal to bring the arms sale resolutions to a vote, Risch agreed to hold the markup on the SAFE Act, as well as another markup on a separate piece of Saudi Arabia legislation expected after the July 4 break.

Who backed the bill: Menendez's bill, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHarrison says campaign had to spend record M haul 'to get this thing to toss-up status' BlackPAC rolls out Senate race endorsements for the first time The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by the Walton Family Foundation — Sights and sounds outside the Amy Coney Barrett vote MORE (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Senate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night MORE (D-Conn.), 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 (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), would specifically limit emergency arms sales to NATO allies and Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. 

Lawmakers in both parties oppose the arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its conduct in the Yemen civil war, where a Saudi-led coalition has been blamed for the majority of civilian deaths, and the Saudi regime's killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered last year in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

 

MEDAL OF HONOR AWARDED TO FIRST LIVING IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Trump on Tuesday awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, making him the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the recognition.

Bellavia received the nation's highest military honor for his actions on Nov. 10, 2004, when he cleared out a block of houses in Fallujah, laid down cover fire and engaged multiple insurgents, saving numerous fellow U.S. soldiers in the process.

Trump praised Bellavia's "exceptional courage" during what was one of the bloodiest operations of the Iraq War. The third day of the battle -- Nov. 10, 2004 -- was Bellavia's 29th birthday, Trump noted.

"America is blessed with the heroes and great people like Staff Sgt. Bellavia, whose intrepid spirit and unwavering resolve defeats our enemies, protects our freedoms and defends our great American flag," Trump said.

The details: Thirty-two service members who fought with Bellavia in Iraq, including 12 who were part of his unit in November 2004, also attended Tuesday's ceremony. Five Gold Star families whose children served with Bellavia and were killed were also recognized.

Five other servicemen have received the Medal of Honor for their actions during the Iraq War. Each was honored posthumously.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Sgt. Major of the Army Daniel Dailey speaks at the Association of the U.S. Army's Institute of Land Warfare breakfast at 6:30 a.m. at AUSA headquarters in Arlington, Va. 

Rep. Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownOvernight Defense: Trump, Biden set to meet in final debate | Explicit Fort Bragg tweets were sent by account administrator | China threatens retaliation over Taiwan arms sale Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds MORE (D-Md.), vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and retired Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, president and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), will hold a discussion on congressional priorities going into this year's legislative cycle at 7:30 a.m. in Arlington, Va. 

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein will speak on "The United States Air Force Role in Nuclear Modernization and Sustainment," at 8:30 a.m. at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C. 

Rep. Doug LambornDouglas (Doug) LambornIran must free Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani House GOP urge Trump against supporting additional funding for state and local governments House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought MORE (R-Colo.), co-chair of the Congressional Directed Energy Caucus; Rep. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinDOJ: Russian hackers targeted 2018 Olympics, French elections Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats Democrats introduce bill providing 0 million to protect schools from cyberattacks MORE (D-R.I.), co-chair of the caucus; and Gary Woltering, deputy chief of the Air Combat Command's Advanced Weapons Systems Division, will speak at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement's fourth annual Directed Energy Systems Summit, beginning at 8:50 a.m. in Arlington, Va. 

Senate Armed Services Committee member Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanCoordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats break fundraising records in Senate races The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden hit campaign trail in Florida MORE (R-Alaska), will speak on "Defending the Arctic," focusing on the recent release of the June 2019 Defense Department Arctic strategy and Russian and Chinese influences, at 12 p.m. at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: McConnell denies request to delay defense bill to after debates: 'Come on'

-- The Hill: TSA to send hundreds of workers to southern border to enforce immigration policies

-- The Hill: US targeted Iranian-backed militia group in cyberattack: report

-- The Hill: NATO: 'No indication' Russia intends to destroy new missil 

-- The Hill: Senate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions

-- The Hill: Senate investigation finds multiple federal agencies left sensitive data vulnerable to cyberattacks for past decade

-- The Hill: Bolton presses Iran to withdraw forces from Syria, areas of conflict

-- The Hill: Poll: More than a third would support pre-emptive nuclear strike on North Korea

-- The Hill: Japan: Trump committed to military treaty, despite report

-- The Hill: Bolton: Sanctions, other pressure will bring Iran to bargaining table 

-- The Hill: Iran: New US sanctions the 'permanent closure' of diplomacy