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Overnight Defense: Mike Rogers slated to be top House Armed Services Republican | Defense bill hits another snag | Pentagon dinged for $700M loan to trucking company using COVID funds

Overnight Defense: Mike Rogers slated to be top House Armed Services Republican | Defense bill hits another snag | Pentagon dinged for $700M loan to trucking company using COVID funds
© Greg Nash

Happy Tuesday 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: Republicans have found their new House Armed Services Committee leader.

Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersFive questions about Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan Congress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike MORE (Ala.) was elected Tuesday by the House GOP Steering Committee to serve as the top Republican on the powerful committee for the 117th Congress.

Rogers, who currently serves as the ranking member on the House Committee on Homeland Security, edged out Rep. Mike TurnerMichael Ray TurnerSunday shows preview: Advocates, lawmakers push for police reform after Chauvin verdict, Ma'Khia Bryant's death Mixed messages on F-35 undermine our allies GOP Rep. Steve Stivers plans to retire MORE (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee, and Rep. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanOvernight Defense: Iran talks set up balancing act for Biden | Pentagon on alert amid Russian saber rattling | Lawmakers urge Pentagon to be pickier about commanders' requests for more troops Battle heats up over Pentagon spending plans Marine Corps commandant says China, Russia to pose biggest challenges for years MORE (R-Va.) in the race. 

The full House GOP conference is expected to ratify the Steering Committee's decision in the coming days.

The Alabama Republican is slated to succeed current ranking member Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto MORE (R-Texas), who announced his retirement in September of last year.

Why it matters: The razor-thin majority House Democrats will have in the next Congress, Republicans can expect to have more sway over crafting key policies in the committee’s signature annual bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The committee has held onto a reputation for being strongly bipartisan even during times of a strong political divide. And with a number of political strategists projecting that Republicans have a strong chance of regaining control of the lower chamber in 2022, Rogers could soon hold the coveted gavel. 

Foreign Affairs gavel: Meanwhile, Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksColombia's protests are threat, test for US Pressure increases for US to send vaccines to Latin America Liberal advocacy group stirs debate, discomfort with primary challenges MORE (D-N.Y.) won the House Democratic Steering Committee’s recommendation in the hotly contested race to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Meeks, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, won 29 votes to beat Reps. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanLawmakers tout bipartisan support for resolution criticizing Iran's government Biden funding decision inflames debate over textbooks for Palestinian refugees Iran talks set up delicate dance for Biden team MORE (D-Calif.), who won 10 votes, and Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroDemocrats ask Biden to reverse employee policy on past marijuana use The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's next act: Massive infrastructure plan with tax hikes Blinken to appear before Foreign Affairs Committee MORE (D-Texas), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who won 13 votes.

Assuming Meeks's recommendation is ratified by the full Democratic caucus, he would be the first Black person to chair the Foreign Affairs Committee.

THE WAITING GAME: The scuttlebut Monday evening was that a deal on this year’s NDAA, and specifically the requirement to rename Confederate-named military bases, was getting close.

A day later, a deal isn’t clinched. A Democratic House aide tells The Hill that talks on Pentagon-related items have “essentially” finished and that negotiators are working out non-Pentagon issues with the White House.

Several reports have indicated the outstanding issue is the White House’s demand for changes to a legal shield for tech companies known as Section 230. As The Hill previously reported, the White House floated the idea of using the NDAA to repeal the legal shield in exchange for dropping opposition to changing Confederate base names, but talks are now reportedly centering on reforms rather than a repeal.

COVID complications: The sprint to finish the NDAA and other year-end bills is happening amid continued COVID-19 diagnoses for lawmakers.

The Hill’s Cristina Marcos took a look at how lawmakers are trying to finish their work for the year while trying to avoid passing the coronavirus to each other.

Nearly a dozen members of the House and Senate tested positive for COVID-19 in the two weeks before Thanksgiving, underscoring the risks of having hundreds of lawmakers travel back and forth from all over the country and gather together in the Capitol while virus cases are surging nationally. 

House Democrats delayed returning to session until Wednesday and are urging members to stay in Washington over the weekend with an eye on wrapping up their December to-do list next week. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are temporarily suspending in-person caucus lunches after holding them with social distancing guidelines since May.

OVERSIGHT PANEL SLAMS DOD FOR $700M LOAN: The Pentagon is taking new heat for its use of the last round of COVID-19 relief funding.

The Congressional Oversight Commission overseeing COVID-19 relief funds excoriated the Defense and Treasury departments Tuesday over a $700 million loan to a troubled shipping company.

The Treasury Department and the Defense Department offered the loan in July when the company, YRC Worldwide, was reportedly worth just $70 million and had been sued by the Pentagon for overpriced shipping costs.

The bipartisan commission overseeing funds from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act said both agencies had failed to provide adequate answers on the matter, and in some cases had raised further concerns with their responses to earlier inquiries.

“The Department of Defense has yet to provide the Commission a satisfactory explanation for how YRC is critical to national security,” the committee said in its most recent oversight report, noting that there were three larger shipping providers offering similar services.

“The Department of Defense did not even consider whether the services it obtains from YRC could be obtained elsewhere,” the report continued, raising further concerns about the favorable terms of the loan and the likelihood that the stake Treasury took in the company would be compromised in the event of a default.

“The Commission is concerned that the Treasury may have put taxpayers in a precarious position,” the report said.

Background: The CARES Acts allocated $500 billion to the Federal Reserve and Treasury for emergency loans and grants, including a pool of more than $30 billion set aside for the aircraft sector, airlines and other businesses essential to national defense. 

Treasury and YRC on July 8 finalized a $700 million loan from the national security tranche after the Defense Department certified that YRC is essential to national security. YRC specializes in “less-than-truckload” shipping, where smaller loads from multiple clients are combined in one trailer.

Treasury called YRC a “leading provider of critical military transportation and other hauling services,” in a July 1 press release, including 68 percent of less-than-truckload services for the Defense Department. The company also boasts contracts with the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday and Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger will testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee subpanel about Navy and Marines Corps readiness at 9:15 a.m. https://bit.ly/39Fgfhg

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech Trump's Navy secretary spent over M on travel during pandemic: report Overnight Defense: US may keep training Afghan forces in other countries | Defense chief tight-lipped on sexual assault decision | 'Swift' return to Iran deal possible, US says MORE will speak at a virtual Brookings Institution event at 11 a.m. https://brook.gs/33x7mCG

A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on the right of women and girls in the Middle East with expert testimony at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/3ofm1dC

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Government announces weapons sales with six nations worth combined $1.55B

-- The Hill: Schumer meets with Biden national security picks

-- The Hill: ISIS Task Force director resigns from Pentagon post in continued post-election purge

-- The Hill: Pentagon reports 12th military COVID-19 death

-- The War Horse: Gag Order: How Marine Corps culture silenced a victim of sexual assault

-- Associated Press: Iran’s parliament approves bill to stop nuclear inspections