Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess

Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess
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Happy Monday 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: Supporters of resolutions blocking President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE's emergency sales to Saudi Arabia were not expected to have the votes to override his vetoes... and now it's official.

The Senate on Monday failed to override Trump's vetoes, marking the latest setback for critics of Riyadh.

Senators voted 45-40, 45-39 and 46-41 on the override attempts, falling well short of the two-thirds majority needed to nix Trump’s veto.


GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Two more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism MORE (Maine), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIt's time for Congress to act: Save jobs and stabilize the aerospace industry Lobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans MORE (Kan.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Trump administration denies permit for controversial Pebble Mine Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism MORE (Alaska) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungShelton's Fed nomination on knife's edge amid coronavirus-fueled absences Grassley quarantining after exposure to coronavirus Rick Scott to quarantine after contact with person who tested positive for COVID-19 MORE (Ind.) voted with Democrats to override each of the three vetoes. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Let's give thanks to Republican defenders of democracy MORE (R-S.C.), who missed the first two votes, joined them to support overriding the third.

Context: The setback comes as frustration with the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been a perennial sticking point between Trump and Congress, including traditional GOP allies. Trump's decision to bypass the notification requirement for his arms deal infuriated lawmakers, who had been using an informal process for more than a year to try to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Congress previously tried and failed to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia. One attempt in 2016 garnered support from 27 senators, while a June 2017 vote narrowly fell short with 47 votes.

Congress passed a separate resolution earlier this year forcing Trump to remove troops in or affecting Yemen unless they were fighting al Qaeda; Trump vetoed the resolution.

More roadblocks: Broader efforts to crack down on Riyadh, or to force the Trump administration into taking a tougher stance, have hit a wall in Congress.

The Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation, despite opposition from Chairman Jim RischJim Elroy RischWill Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Idaho), that would temporarily suspend arms sales and slap sanctions on the Saudi royal family. Democrats also succeeded in adding similar language into a Saudi bill sponsored by Risch, but the GOP senator yanked his legislation.

Risch told reporters after the committee business meeting that Menendez's bill would not get a vote on the Senate floor and that the Senate had effectively closed the door to taking action on Saudi Arabia.

"The objective was to give the committee the alternative of either doing something where they could participate in the formulation of foreign policy or set that aside and just do messaging," Risch said. "They chose to do the messaging ... but that cedes the formation of policy totally to the second branch of government."

TWO KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN: Two U.S. service members were killed Monday in Afghanistan.

The soldiers were supporting the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in the country, according to a statement from the alliance.

NATO provided no further details and the service members' names will be withheld until next of kin are notified, in accordance with Defense Department protocol.

The deaths bring the number of U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan in 2019 to 14 -- two of which were not combat related -- as the military continues to aid Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban.

What happened: Several reports citing unnamed officials said initial information indicated Monday's attack was an insider attack.

In other words, an Afghan service member or somebody wearing their uniform reportedly fired on the U.S. service members.

Such attacks have been common throughout the Afghanistan War, but have declined from their peak years ago.

Withdrawal by 2020?: U.S. officials have repeatedly said the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is contingent on conditions on the ground even as President Trump has expressed a desire to withdraw.

But on Monday, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE indicated Trump's re-election campaign is a consideration as well.

In an appearance at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Pompeo was asked whether he would expect a drawdown in Afghanistan "before the next presidential election in the United States."

"That's my directive from the president of the United States," Pompeo replied. "He's been unambiguous: End the endless wars, draw down, reduce."

"Yes, it's not only my expectation, it would be job-enhancing," he added.


RACE TO RECESS: The House has already started its August recess, and the Senate plans to be there by the end of the week.

But the Senate has a packed to-do list before its gets there.

To that end, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Biden and reproductive health rights Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls MORE (R-Ky.) filed cloture on three items on Monday -- all defense related.

One was on the motion to proceed to the budget agreement. Recall that the agreement sets a defense topline of $738 billion for fiscal year 2020 and $740 billion for fiscal 2021. It has been backed by defense hawks for providing stability to the Pentagon.

The other two were on nominees: David Norquist to be deputy Defense secretary and Kelly Craft to be U.S. ambassador to the U.N.


HYTEN IN THE HOTSEAT: Gen. John Hyten will have the opportunity to publicly defend himself Tuesday from sexual assault allegations as the Senate Armed Services Committee holds his confirmation hearing to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The committee will start the day with another business meeting at 8:30 a.m. on unspecified pending nominations; other recent business meetings on unspecified nominations have been about Hyten.

The open hearing will then get started at 10 a.m.

As previously reported, Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser publicly identified herself as Hyten's accuser in a New York Times interview last week. She also spoke on-the-record to the Washington Post in a story published Sunday.

In the Washington Post story, former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who was briefed on the investigation's findings, said the "the Air Force left no stone unturned in its investigation and the Senate has been thorough as well."

"Based on what I know of the complete investigation," Wilson told the Post, "I believe General Hyten was falsely accused."

Pre-hearing statements: Ahead of the hearing, Protect Our Defenders called on the Senate not to confirm him and the White House to withdraw the nomination.

"The Senate cannot in good conscience confirm General Hyten," Protect Our Defense president Don Christensen said in a statement. " There is no evidence that Col. Spletstoser has fabricated a single word of her allegations or has anything to gain by coming forward. In fact, quite the opposite. If General Hyten is confirmed, the effect on military survivors will be devastating. The clear message will be stay silent, you will not be believed. The actions of the Air Force have already told survivors that they will side with the powerful over the victim. The Senate must not reinforce that message."

Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierDemocratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief Pentagon puts on show of force as questions circle on COVID-19 outbreak Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety MORE (D-Calif.), who as a House member doesn't get a vote on Hyten, called on the Senate Armed Services Committee to allow Spletstoser to publicly testify.

Spletstoser testified behind closed-doors last week, but she told the Post the committee denied her request to publicly testify unless she has "new information."

"Col. Spletstoser's allegations are credible and serious," Speier tweeted. "They paint a picture of criminal conduct by a man unfit for command. @SASCMajority must allow her to testify publicly before voting on Gen. Hyten's nomination."



The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Gen. John Hyten to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at 10 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50. https://bit.ly/2GzZQeS

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the nominees to be ambassadors to Latvia and Papua New Guinea at 2:30 p.m. at Dirksen 419. https://bit.ly/2YsSIaq



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