Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Senate sends $738B defense bill to Trump | Bill establishes Space Force, federal paid parental leave | House approves $1.4T spending package

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: The Senate passed a mammoth defense bill on Tuesday, sending it to President Trump’s desk for his signature. 

Senators voted 86-8 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation cleared the House last week. 

The $738 billion bill — which authorizes spending and lays out policy guidelines for the Pentagon — includes a high-profile deal that grants federal employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave in exchange for creating Trump’s “Space Force.”

{mosads}Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) touted the measure ahead of the vote on Tuesday, noting it was the 59th year in a row that Congress has passed the defense bill. 

“We’ll finally put this vital legislation on the president’s desk. I look forward to voting to pass the NDAA today by another overwhelming bipartisan vote for our service members and the critical missions they carry out,” McConnell said. 

What’s in the bill: Creation of a Space Force was a top goal for the White House and Republicans. Under the final agreement, it would be housed under the Department of the Air Force and would be led by a chief of space operations who would become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but report to the secretary of the Air Force. 

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) called it “the president’s big deal,” though he noted that he had “some reluctance at first” in supporting it. 

“It will help protect space and ensure America’s dominance in this warfighting domain for years to come,” Inhofe said. “China and Russia have their own space dominance … and just the fact that we don’t have one is something that made people believe we didn’t have an interest in the Space Force.” 

The backlash: But the trade off for paid parental leave — and the large tab — earned the defense policy bill backlash from fiscal conservatives in the Senate. 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued that the bill included “bad compromises” that had “nothing to do with the national defense.” 

“The dirty little secret in Washington is that there’s actually too much compromise,” Paul said. “We’re going to have paid leave for everybody, but we’re going to borrow the money from China.” 

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) also raised a point of order against the defense bill, arguing that it violated budget rules. Senators rejected his motion on Tuesday, and moved the bill toward a final vote. 

“Unfortunately CBO tell us that this bill will significantly add to our debt in the near and long term,” Enzi, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, said on Tuesday, referring to the Congressional Budget Office. 

But expectations are high: Despite opposition from a handful of senators and issues with some provisions within the bill, the NDAA was widely expected to pass. It overcame a procedural hurdle on Monday night in a 76-6 vote. 

Trump has pledged that he will sign the legislation “immediately” once it reaches his desk. 

“Wow! All of our priorities have made it into the final NDAA: Pay Raise for our Troops, Rebuilding our Military, Paid Parental Leave, Border Security, and Space Force! Congress – don’t delay this anymore!” he tweeted last week. 

The long hold up: The bill was caught for months in negotiations between House and Senate lawmakers, raising the prospect that Congress might not be able to pass the defense legislation for the first time in nearly 60 years. Inhofe, as a backup, had introduced a “skinny” NDAA, though it likely would not have been able to pass the House. 

The major sticking point was the provisions related to Trump’s border wall. Ultimately, negotiators decided to leave out wall-related provisions, kicking the issue to the separate appropriations process.

Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, noted that there were “many difficult issues” to be worked out, but touted the legislation as a good deal. 

“It is the art of compromise,” he added. 


ON THE HOUSE SIDE, A MASSIVE $1.4T PACKAGE APPROVED: The House on Tuesday approved $1.4 trillion in spending in a pair of bills funding the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year.

The House overwhelmingly passed the pair of bills, with the first passing on a 297-120 vote and the second passing 280-138. Both measures now head to the Senate.

The Senate is expected to approve both before leaving for the week, and the White House has indicated that President Trump will sign them into law.

Passage of the legislation concludes a lengthy debate that had raised the risk of a government shutdown — or the more likely possibility that Congress would have to approve a stopgap measure that would keep the government open, but would not put any new imprint on spending.

What happened instead: The House and Senate, however, reached a deal on all 12 annual spending bills, punting on at least one divisive issue that had threatened the talks: Trump’s demands for funding for his border wall.

The Homeland Security bill left in place the same $1.375 billion for erecting border barriers that negotiators agreed to last year, with similar restrictions. It also leaves the number of detention beds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) flat, and imposes no restrictions on Trump’s use of emergency powers to reprogram defense funds toward his wall, though courts have blocked those actions at least temporarily.

A change: The agreement is a departure from the deep political rancor and brinksmanship that marked negotiations in the first two years of Trump’s presidency. Last year, disagreement over wall funding led to a 35-day partial shutdown, the longest in the nation’s history, after which Trump controversially declared a national emergency in order to reprogram defense and military construction funds.

But the compromise didn’t sit well with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), who had pushed for more ICE restrictions and fewer beds.

Many members of the CHC voted against the spending package in protest. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) also came out against the bill.

“The bill before us today will not stop the abuse and wrongful detention of people in custody, nor will it prevent the Trump Administration from misusing federal funds to advance their horrific mass detention and deportation agenda,” said CPC co-chairs Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

The House Freedom Caucus also opposed the bill, arguing it added to the deficit and failed to provide adequate funding for border security.

What else was in the bill: The bill includes a $22 billion increase in annual defense spending, a sum short of what Trump demanded but nonetheless a victory for the White House, and a 3.1 percent pay raise for the military, the largest increase in a decade.

It also included funding for a slew of programs and Democratic priorities, including $7.6 billion to fund the 2020 census, increases in funding for the National Science Foundation, NASA and climate research through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Democrats secured $425 million for election security grants ahead of the 2020 election. The bill also included funds to digitize $24 billion worth of uncollected bonds to help pay them out to bondholders who never collected.


IMPEACHMENT UPDATE: Lawmakers on the House Rules Committee heard closing arguments Tuesday on the merits of Democrats’ articles of impeachment against President Trump, marking the last debate before the full House is set to take up the historic vote.

The impeachment debate, which follows the curvatures of previous dueling Democratic and GOP claims about the propriety of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, provided a new cast of Democratic and Republican lawmakers the opportunity to amplify their views before the rolling television cameras.

An unexpected twist: The top Democrat and Republican on the House Judiciary Committee were expected to kick off the hearing by going toe-to-toe in debating the merits of the two impeachment articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — that the panel approved in a party-line vote last week. But an unexpected family emergency led Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) to miss the hearing.

Rather, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a constitutional lawyer, found himself propelled into the high-profile role of defending Democrats’ view that Trump should be removed from office for seeking to recruit a foreign power to hurt a 2020 political rival’s campaign. 

“The president’s continuing course of conduct constitutes a clear and present danger to democracy in America. We cannot allow this misconduct to pass. It would be a sellout of our Constitution, our foreign policy, our national security and our democracy,” Raskin said in his opening remarks.

Collins’ claims: He battled against the claims of Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, who railed against the “sham” impeachment process as an unfair partisan-driven effort designed to remove Trump from office because Democrats cannot beat him at the ballot box.

In particular, Collins warned that the decisions made this week will have lasting consequences.

“There will be a day of reckoning. The calendar and the clock will continue. But what you do here, and how we have trashed the process in getting here will live on,” Collins said.

Dems on the ready: And the process is not limited to the 13 members of the panel and the two Judiciary representatives. Any lawmakers outside the committee will be able to put forward an amendment to the articles, which means there is a long list of members who can argue for or against their merits.

With that in mind, Democrats have anticipated that Republicans will offer multiple amendments designed to alter or eliminate the impeachment articles, though none of those proposals are expected to pass, as every Democrat on the Rules panel has already endorsed both articles.

Timing: The Rules Committee hearing comes shortly after two other House panels — Intelligence and Judiciary — moved through the fact-finding part of the nearly three-month inquiry to the drafting and debate over the articles of impeachment.

Democrats say Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open two politically motivated investigations, including into former Vice President Joe Biden and interference in 2016 presidential election.

In particular, they allege that he used the promise of a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in congressionally approved U.S. aid as leverage to get Zelensky to make a public commitment to the probes.

The full House vote set for Wednesday could make Trump the third president in the nation’s history to be impeached, and it is expected to be approved largely along party lines.



Former head of U.S. Northern Command Retired Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, will speak on current national security challenges and the need for diverse public servants in meeting them, at 10 a.m. at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. 



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Tags Donald Trump Doug Collins Government shutdown Jack Reed James Inhofe Jamie Raskin Jerrold Nadler Joe Biden Mark Pocan Mike Enzi Mitch McConnell Pramila Jayapal Rand Paul

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