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Overnight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial

Overnight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial
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Happy Thursday 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: The House passed a pair of bills Thursday aimed at limiting President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE's war authorities, the latest legislative maneuver after the spike in U.S.-Iran tensions.

One bill would repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), while the other would block funding for military action against Iran.

The House approved the bill to repeal the Iraq War authorization in a largely party-line vote of 236-166. The other bill was also passed in a mostly partisan vote of 228-175.

Here's more on each one:

AUMF repeal: The Trump administration has cited the 2002 AUMF in its legal justification for the strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, which took place on Iraqi soil and came after the administration blamed an Iranian-backed militia for a rocket attack in Iraq that killed a U.S. contractor and an attempt to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The 2002 AUMF, which was passed to authorize the Iraq War, allows military action to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq." The authorization has been used to some extent by successive presidents to justify military action against terrorist threats, though administrations more prominently use the post-9/11 AUMF for operations against terrorists. 

The bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF was offered by Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Top contender for Biden Defense chief would be historic pick Overnight Defense: 5 US service members killed in international peacekeeping helicopter crash in Egypt | Progressives warn Biden against Defense nominee with contractor ties | Trump executive order to ban investment in Chinese military-linked companies MORE (D-Calif.), a longtime anti-war voice.

"I stand here once again urging Congress to do its job, this time by repealing the long outdated and unnecessary 2002 AUMF," Lee, who voted against both the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, said Thursday ahead of the vote. "Not only is it not needed for any current counterterrorism operations, but repealing it would have absolutely no impact on the administration's ongoing military operations."

By contrast, Lee continued, leaving the AUMF on the books would "allow any administration to use it for military action that Congress never intended to authorize."

Republican Reps. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzFlorida passes 850k coronavirus cases Florida GOP Rep. Mike Waltz tests positive for COVID-19 Gaetz says he has coronavirus antibodies MORE (Fla.), Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonHillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns MORE (Ohio), Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieCheney seeks to cool tensions with House conservatives House in near-unanimous vote affirms peaceful transfer of power Ron Paul hospitalized in Texas MORE (Ky.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Michael Cloud (Texas), Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherReestablishing American prosperity by investing in the 'Badger Belt' Actors union blasts Democrat for criticizing GOP lawmaker's wife Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats MORE (Wis.), Alex MooneyAlexander (Alex) Xavier MooneyHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought Overnight Defense: House passes bills to rein in Trump on Iran | Pentagon seeks Iraq's permission to deploy missile defenses | Roberts refuses to read Paul question on whistleblower during impeachment trial MORE (W.Va.), Jamie Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyThe Hill's Morning Report - Too close to call Chip Roy fends off challenge from Wendy Davis to win reelection in Texas Democrats seek wave to bolster House majority MORE (Texas), David SchweikertDavid SchweikertHouse GOP proposed rules change sparks concern Next Congress expected to have record diversity Embattled Schweikert beats back Democratic challenge in Arizona MORE (Ariz.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Republican Michigan congressman: 'The people have spoken' GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics MORE (Mich.) broke with their party to support Lee's bill.

Funding block: The other bill, offered by Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-Calif.), would prohibit federal funding from being used for military action against Iran except in cases of self-defense or if Congress has specifically authorized the action.

"The reality is that Congress needs to exercise the power of the purse," Khanna told reporters ahead of the vote. "We need to make it very clear that Congress is not going to authorize a dime for an offensive war in Iran."

Khanna's bill had support from four Republicans: Gaetz, Massie, Davidson and Rep. Trey HollingsworthJoseph (Trey) Albert HollingsworthHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump campaign tweet of Biden clip as manipulated media | Democrats demand in-person election security briefings resume | Proposed rules to protect power grid raise concerns Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research The Hill's 12:30 Report: Presidential race tightens in key states MORE (Ind.).

GOP argues over process: Most Republicans fumed about the procedure Democrats used to bring the bills to the floor.

The House voted on Khanna's and Lee's measures as amendments to an unrelated commemorative coin bill. That prevented Republicans from offering what's known as a motion to recommit, which is the last opportunity to amend a bill in the House.

Motions to recommit are used often by the minority and usually fail. But Republicans successfully used them several times last year to force centrist Democrats into tough votes and split with the party.

"Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats are so unsure of their own substantive case that they are hiding behind House rules to make sure that Republicans can't even bring any amendment to this legislation," said Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Trump: Liz Cheney's election remarks sparked by push to bring US troops home Biden's lead over Trump surpasses 6M votes as more ballots are tallied MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican.

The procedural move prompted some Republicans who previously voted for both bills in July to vote against them on Thursday, with Rep. Tom ReedTom ReedDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE (R-N.Y.) saying he switched his vote because the debate was now a "sham."

At the Pentagon: As the House was getting ready to vote on the bills, Pentagon officials spoke to reporters on the latest fallout after the Soleimani strike.

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTrump administration pulls out of Open Skies treaty with Russia The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans President is wild card as shutdown fears grow MORE told reporters the United States is working to get the Iraqi government's permission to put Patriot missile defense systems in the country to protect U.S. forces there from possible Iranian attacks.

"One of the things we need to do is make sure we have permission from the host government, and that's one of the matters we have to work on and work through," Esper told reporters at a Pentagon press conference. "We need the permission of the Iraqis."

The U.S. military did not have Patriots deployed at al-Asad airbase in Iraq, which houses American troops, during a Jan. 8 missile attack from Iran that was retaliation for the Soleimani strike.

Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley also spoke about the traumatic brain injuries U.S. troops suffered in the missile attack.

Milley said the service members suffering from TBIs have all been diagnosed with mild cases.

Asked about Trump's comments that the injuries were "headaches" and not "very serious," Esper said he's spoken with the president and that he "is very concerned about the health and welfare of all our service members, particularly those who were involved in the operations in Iraq, and he understands the nature of these injuries."

 

IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, DAY 9: Thursday saw the second day of senators question both House impeachment managers and the defense team in Trump's impeachment trial.

The Hill is maintaining a liveblog of the question and answer session, which is ongoing. Follow along here.

Roberts won't read Paul's question: The question the got perhaps the most attention Thursday was one that wasn't asked.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts refused to read a question submitted by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses MORE (R-Ky.) that was expected to be about the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

Because the question is thought to name the whistleblower and Roberts is responsible for reading the questions aloud, that would put him in the position of publicly outing the person on the floor of the Senate.

A Senate page brought the question from Paul to Roberts, who appeared to pause to read it. 

"The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted," Roberts said. 

Roberts then sat the slip of paper with Paul's query aside and the Senate moved on to the next question. 

Paul argued during a brief press conference after the floor drama that his question "made no reference to any whistleblower" and that Roberts's decision was an "incorrect finding." 

"I think this is an important question, one that deserves to be asked. It makes no reference to anybody who may or may not be a whistleblower," Paul said. 

Paul then read his question, which names both a staff member for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump tells GSA that Biden transition can begin Hillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Democrats accuse GSA of undermining national security by not certifying Biden win MORE (D-Calif.) and the individual who has been reported in conservative media as the possible whistleblower, and asks about their contacts.

End in sight?: Senate Republicans are planning for four hours of closing arguments in Trump's impeachment trial starting Friday afternoon.

The arguments, presented by both the House managers and the Trump's defense team, would be followed by a vote on whether to call additional witnesses and then a final up-or-down vote on the two articles of impeachment.

Republicans are aiming to wrap up the trial proceedings late Friday evening or early Saturday morning, depending on how long Democrats drag out the final vote by offering amendments to the motion to move to a final vote, said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (Wyo.).

"My understanding is essentially the closing arguments are going to be two hours for each side tomorrow afternoon, probably starting at one o'clock, until we're finished with that. Then the vote would occur on the issue of witnesses," Barrasso said at a brief press conference Thursday during a 20-minute break in the trial.

"If we are able to say, 'No, we want to go right now to final judgment,' then we would move in that direction and stay here until that work is decided and completed Friday evening," he added.

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Here are the lawmakers who defected on Iran legislation

-- The Hill: Trump administration to propose keeping Ukraine funding unchanged in new budget

-- The Hill: US extends waivers for Iran nuclear program, announces new sanctions

-- The Hill: Trump administration to roll back restrictions on landmine use: report

-- The Hill: Opinion: Washington needs to anticipate Iran's next provocation

-- The Hill: Opinion: The US needs Israel-style air defense to stop Iran

-- Associated Press: US military chief in Africa argues for vital US presence

-- Federation of American Scientists: US deploys new low-yield nuclear submarine warhead

-- The Washington Post: As impeachment vote looms, Pompeo's Ukraine trip is a high-risk, high-reward venture