Happy Wednesday 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: A group of progressive House Democrats is launching a last-ditch effort to try to block the controversial recent arms sale to Israel.
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDon't let partisan politics impede Texas' economic recovery Ocasio-Cortez explains 'present' vote on Iron Dome Dingell fundraises off Greene altercation on Capitol steps MORE (D-N.Y.), Mark PocanMark William PocanOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — The Quad confab House passes sweeping defense policy bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Defense bill takes center stage MORE (D-Wis.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOcasio-Cortez explains 'present' vote on Iron Dome Holding back on defensive systems for Israel could have dangerous consequences Overnight Defense & National Security — Iron Dome funding clears House MORE (D-Mich.) led the introduction Wednesday of a resolution of disapproval that would block the $735 million precision-guided munitions sale.
“For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights. In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions,” Ocasio-Cortez in a statement announcing the resolution. “At a time when so many, including President BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE, support a ceasefire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to Prime Minister Netanyahu to prolong this violence.”
Why it matters: The resolution is largely symbolic as Democratic leaders who support the sale are unlikely to give the legislation a vote and the window for lawmakers to force a vote to block the sale closes in a couple of days.
But the effort underscores the growing divide among Democrats on Israel as a bloody crisis in Gaza continues.
About that divide: We also took a look this morning at how the arms sale is exposing fault lines in the Democratic Party over what to do about the escalating violence in Israel.
The sale is splitting party leaders who remain solid allies of Israel and more progressive Democrats who see Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as a social injustice.
Even Democrats who have been critical of Israel’s strikes on Gaza, such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), said the weapons sale is a done deal and will not be unwound.
“That arms sale was already noticed a long time ago. That has gone through a whole vetting process already,” said Menendez, a longtime supporter of Israel who opposed the Iran nuclear deal but has been critical of the recent strikes.
In the Senate: In addition the House progressives’ effort on the arm sale, leading Senate progressive voice Sen. Bernie Sander (I-Vt.) offered a resolution Wednesday calling for an immediate cease-fire between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas.
The resolution stated that “whereas every Palestinian life matters” and “every Israeli life matters,” the Senate urges an immediate cease-fire to prevent further loss of life and further escalation of the conflict in Israeli and Palestinian territories.
Sanders took to the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon to try unsuccessfully to adopt the resolution by unanimous consent.
Biden and Netanyahu, round four: Meanwhile, President Biden spoke with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE for the fourth time in a week Wednesday morning, this time telling Netanyahu he expects a “significant de-escalation” in the violence between Israel and Hamas by Wednesday to put the two sides "on the path to a ceasefire,” per a White House statement on the call.
In comments hours after the phone call, Netanyahu said he is “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met,” a strong indication that Biden’s words did not have their desired effect.
GOP LAWMAKERS OPPOSE QRF FOR DC GUARD: A pair of top Republicans is opposing the creation of a National Guard quick reaction force (QRF) for Washington, D.C., the funding for which is included in a bill to bulk up security at the Capitol following the Jan. 6 attack.
In a joint statement issued Wednesday, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), respectively the ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, said they “firmly oppose creating a D.C. National Guard Quick Reaction Force.”
“We cannot and should not militarize the security of the Capitol Complex,” they said. “Further, Congress has held precisely no hearings to examine the creation of a Quick Reaction Force to weigh costs, benefits and fundamental questions about its nature and responsibilities.”
About the proposal: A $1.9 billion Capitol security funding bill, unveiled Friday by House Democrats and expected to be voted on in the lower chamber this week, includes $200 million to establish a standing quick reaction force within the D.C. National Guard dedicated to responding to crises in the district.
Flashback: To March, when Rogers indicated he could support a National Guard quick reaction force stationed off the Capitol complex.
“One of the things they would like to see is a rapid response National Guard unit, which I'm fine with being remote from the campus. And I would support that, but that's about as close as we need as having guardsmen around the Capitol,” Rogers told reporters in March.
The “they” in that quote was referring to the security review led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré in the wake of the Capitol attack. The report recommended a quick reaction force, suggesting it be composed either of National Guardsmen or civilian law enforcement officers.
Other concern: In addition to Rogers and Inhofe’s statement, the leaders of the National Guard Association of the United States issued their own statement Wednesday expressing concern about the proposal.
“With the Guard’s overlapping deployments for overseas operations, COVID-19, firefighting and hurricane response, a dedicated QRF would be another personnel-intensive requirement on our force as well as a detractor from the Guard’s main mission of serving as the primary reserve of the Army and Air Force,” retired Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, the association’s chairman, and retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, its president, said in the statement.
“The Guard mission at the Capitol is coming to end,” they added. “It’s time for local law enforcement to take it from here. All of it.”
IN OTHER NEWS ABOUT ONE OF THE GUARD’S MANY MISSIONS
The Department of Homeland Security wants military members to stay at the U.S.-Mexico border past the Sept. 30 date they were expected to return home, the Pentagon has confirmed.
About 4,000 National Guard troops are currently at the southern border as part of a mission that began in late 2018 and was meant to end by the start of October.
But DHS on May 12 requested that the Defense Department “extend DoD support to Customs and Border Protection into fiscal year 2022. The Department is currently considering that request,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in a statement on Tuesday.
Maybe active-duty instead?: National Guard Bureau chief Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson earlier on Tuesday revealed the DHS request when he told lawmakers that active duty troops may replace the Guardsmen as all options were on the table for such a deployment.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby on Wednesday would not confirm whether defense officials are considering using active duty troops.
“We are aware of the request... it’s going through analysis now. I won’t speculate on what the answer to the request will be or how it will be sourced,” Kirby told reporters.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad will testify before the House Oversight Committee’s national security subcommittee at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/3tXkawJ
Director of National Intelligence Avril HainesAvril HainesCIA chief team member reported 'Havana syndrome' symptoms during trip to India: report Republican requesting data, notes, emails in intelligence report on COVID-19 origins After messy Afghanistan withdrawal, questions remain MORE and David Taylor, acting under secretary of Defense for intelligence and security, will testify behind closed doors to the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/33YdBPP
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the withdrawal from Afghanistan with testimony from defense officials at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/3oyiXdS
A House Armed Service Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on the Pentagon’s science and technology plans for fiscal year 2022 with testimony from defense officials at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/3f26ImP
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