Overnight Defense: Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers | Diversity chief at Special Operations Command reassigned during probe into social media posts

Overnight Defense: Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers | Diversity chief at Special Operations Command reassigned during probe into social media posts
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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: Congress is wading into a messy fight over President BidenJoe BidenBiden to meet House Dems before Europe trip: report 21 House Democrats call for removing IRS bank reporting proposal from spending bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Vulnerable House Dems push drug pricing plan MORE’s war powers after years of ceding authority to the White House.

The legislative effort is blurring political lines by testing the balance of power between two branches of government and creating strange bedfellows, with hawkish Republicans who disagree with Biden’s policies wary of attempts to limit presidential authority on the issue.

Proponents of change are hoping Biden’s ascendancy, after serving for decades in Congress, and shifts in public opinion in the decades since earlier military authorizations by lawmakers will provide a boost of momentum after years of stalemate.

What they want to change: Congress is looking at three previous authorizations for the use of military force (AUMFs): the 1991 measure for the Gulf War, the 2001 bill passed days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and 2002 legislation passed for the Iraq War.

The biggest challenge, lawmakers acknowledge, will be how to handle the 2001 authorization. It was approved by Congress just days after Sept. 11, 2001, to go after terrorist groups behind the attack. But it’s since been stretched to cover military operations in 19 countries, including against groups that didn’t even exist on 9/11.

The ’tricky part’: “What the replacement looks like, what are the contours of it, that’s going to be the tricky part of that and the more difficult part,” said Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWhy is Trump undermining his administration's historic China policies? Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates MORE (D-N.J.), the chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenate Republicans raise concerns about TSA cyber directives for rail, aviation The unseen problems in Afghanistan How to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) MORE (R-Ind.), a member of the panel, agreed that the 2001 AUMF should be “rewritten” but that it would be hard to do.

“The administration seems open to revisiting some of these things, but admittedly the '01 AUMF is going to be much more challenging than ditching the '02 and the '91,” he said.

How the White House is leaning: The Biden administration has signaled it’s open to revamping the military authorizations, sparking optimism among those on Capitol Hill who want Congress to reassert itself on foreign policy after increasingly yielding to the executive branch in recent decades.

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden to meet House Dems before Europe trip: report Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China On The Money — Will the billionaire tax survive Joe Manchin? MORE said in a statement that the administration was “committed to working with Congress to ensure that the authorizations for the use of military force currently on the books are replaced with a narrow and specific framework.”

Early discussions: Menendez and Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KainePatience wears thin as Democrats miss deadlines Obama gives fiery speech for McAuliffe: 'Don't sit this one out' Biden injects new momentum into filibuster fight MORE (D-Va.) say they are in early discussions with administration officials about rewriting the 2001 authorization. Kaine, who noted that he had already talked with national security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanFlake, Cindy McCain among latest Biden ambassadors confirmed after delay The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - White House to host lawmakers as negotiations over agenda hit critical stage MORE, predicted that they would sit down after the current two-week recess to talk about what the administration’s red lines might be.

“The first thing I’m trying to do is talk to the White House about any 'thou shalts' or 'thou shalt nots,'” he said. “We’re going to have to find, definitely, an accord. Because there’s different points of view.”

But trying to repeal the 2001 authorization could spark pushback from both sides — with the executive branch and Republicans wary of taking potential military options off the table and Democrats wanting new restrictions.

Read the rest here.


Officials have reassigned a new diversity and inclusion chief at U.S. Special Operations Command amid an investigation into his previous controversial social media posts.

Special Operations Command spokesman Kenneth McGraw told The Hill on Monday that Richard Torres-Estrada was reassigned "to other duties" pending the conclusion of the probe. 

"The Commander has directed an investigation to look into the facts surrounding Mr. Torres-Estrada’s selection," McGraw said in a statement. "It would be inappropriate to comment on specifics until the evaluation is complete."

What set off the probe: A senior military spokesperson confirmed to CNN that one of the posts under scrutiny involved a post that seemingly compared former President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China WSJ publishes letter from Trump continuing to allege voter fraud in PA Oath Keeper who was at Capitol on Jan. 6 runs for New Jersey State Assembly MORE to Adolf Hitler. 

Torres-Estrada’s June 20 post included a photo from Trump’s largely criticized visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he posed with a Bible after law enforcement forcibly cleared the area in front of the White House with tear gas. 

Next to the former president’s picture, Torres-Estrada put a photo of Hitler in front of a crowd while giving the Nazi salute, according to CNN. The picture of the German dictator was edited to show him holding a Bible. 

That post was accompanied by the Spanish text, saying, "Let me leave this here for you and slowly back away (while I continue to work from home)." 

The Pentagon’s response: During a Monday press conference, Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said that Secretary of Defense Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinRepublican spin on Biden is off the mark Biden remarks on Taiwan leave administration scrambling Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan MORE knows about the social media posts and the investigation. 

"Obviously, we take the need to promote diversity and inclusion seriously here in the department. The secretary has spoken to that many times," Kirby said. "And we certainly want that work to be transparent, to be credible, to be effective, and of course professional.”  

“We want everybody to take those duties and responsibilities seriously and professionally, but we're not going to get ahead of Special Operations Command's investigation,” he added. 


The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement will hold its virtual Counter UAS Summit: “Update on DOD Counter Small UAS Strategy,” with Nicole Thomas, division chief for strategy and policy in the Army Joint Counter Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Office, at 9:50 a.m. https://www.idga.org/events-counteruas-usa/?mac=IDGA_Events_Image_Listing&utm_medium=Portal&utm_source=idga

Former Defense Secretary and retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis will speak at the Hampton Roads World Affairs Council Virtual Symposium virtual panel discussion, “Stronger Together: Perspectives on Strengthening the Alliance,” at 12:30 p.m. https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_eCXEziS8R9WwkSQQmq3lnQ%20%20%20?utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20033021_03/30/2021&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393

Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of Air Mobility Command and nominee to head the U.S. Transportation Command will speak at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event at 1 p.m. https://www.mitchellaerospacepower.org/?rid=78393&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily+on+Defense&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Daily+on+Defense+033021_03%2F30%2F2021

Maj. Gen. John Epperly, deputy commanding general of the Army National Guard - U.S. Army Futures Command, will speak at a Defense One webinar on “The Future of Army Modernization,” at 2 p.m. https://www.defenseone.com/feature/the-future-of-army-modernization/?oref=ge-events-upcoming&utm_source=Daily%20on%20Defense%20033021_03/30/2021&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WEX_Daily%20on%20Defense&rid=78393

Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, will speak to the media as part of the George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group at 3:30 p.m.


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