Overnight Defense: $706B Pentagon spending bill advances | Navy secretary nominee glides through hearing | Obstacles mount in Capitol security funding fight

Overnight Defense: $706B Pentagon spending bill advances | Navy secretary nominee glides through hearing | Obstacles mount in Capitol security funding fight
© Getty Images

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: The fiscal year 2022 defense spending bill has made it out of the House Appropriations Committee, but the fight over next year’s defense budget is just heating up.

The committee voted 33-23 to advance the $706 billion Pentagon spending bill, a vote split entirely on party lines.

Why it matters: Republican opposition to the bill was unsurprising after weeks of GOP lawmakers panning President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE’s budget request, with which the bill is aligned, as too small.

But Republicans unifying against the bill could make it difficult for Democrats to pass a defense budget as progressives have been arguing the proposed funding amount is too large in the face of pressing domestic needs and nonmilitary threats such as pandemics.

Progressives on the Appropriations Committee voted to advance the bill Tuesday, but stressed they were only doing so to allow for a floor debate as they continued to rail against the price tag.

“We just spend too much on what is defined as traditional defense, and many of us in the country and many of us in Congress would like to redefine defense,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). “What’s actually in the defense of this country? It’s not in defense contractors, but it’s things like pandemics and climate change and other items.”

War powers: Two of the more closely watched amendment debates at Tuesday’s markup were Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeHouse panel to examine states' abortion restrictions, hear from three congresswomen who've had abortions Warren, Bush offer bill to give HHS power to impose eviction moratorium Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly MORE’s (D-Calif.) amendments to repeal the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF).

Lee’s amendments have been approved by the committee for the last couple years, but she offered them again amid the broader war powers debate in Congress that has been gaining momentum.

In the end, the committee’s debate on her amendments was relatively drama-free this year. The panel approved both of them by voice vote, though some Republicans did speak out in opposition to the amendments.

Rejected amendments: Meanwhile, the panel voted against several amendments offered by Republicans.

Among them was one from Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) to add language blocking transfers from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to facilities in the United States. That language has been law for years but was dropped from the panel’s bill this year.

The committee voted 26-31 against the amendment. Two Democrats, Reps. Charlie Crist (Fla.) and Henry Cueller (Texas), supported the amendment.

The panel also rejected in a party-line vote an amendment from Díaz-Balart to block funding for the Pentagon’s Countering Extremism Working Group until it provides a definition of extremism.

Republicans have argued that without a concrete definition of extremism, the department’s efforts to root out extremists could amount to a witch hunt against conservatives. But Democrats argued the amendment would unnecessarily slow down the working group since one of its tasks is to come up with a definition of extremism for the department to use.

The committee also rejected along party lines an amendment from Rep. John RutherfordJohn Henry RutherfordOvernight Defense: 6B Pentagon spending bill advances | Navy secretary nominee glides through hearing | Obstacles mount in Capitol security funding fight Service dogs are saving veteran lives, despite limited access through VA Lawmakers roll out bill to protect critical infrastructure after Florida water hack MORE (R-Fla.) to remove language from the bill that would limit the Pentagon’s transferring of weapons to local police departments through what’s known as the 1033 program.


On the other side of the Capitol on Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee took up a slate of nominees that included Navy secretary nominee Carlos Del Toro.

Del Toro avoided any missteps at the genial hearing, setting him up for a likely easy confirmation.

The China problem: One of the concerns lawmakers posed to Del Toro was threats posed by China, particularly the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

In response, Del Toro pledged to focus “exclusively” on China if he’s confirmed.

“It's incredibly important to defend Taiwan in every way possible,” Del Toro said. “It takes a holistic view of our national commitment to Taiwan. We should be focused on providing Taiwan with as much self-defensive measures as humanly possible.

“And if confirmed to the Navy, I am going to be exclusively focused on the China threat and exclusively focused in moving our maritime strategy forward in order to protect Taiwan and all of our national security interests in the Indo-Pacific theater," he added.

How many ships?: Del Toro was also asked about the Navy’s struggle to meet a 355-ship goal mandated by Congress. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday has said the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget request does not get the service on track to meet that goal.

Del Toro said he supports the 355-ship goal and pledged to fight for resources in the fiscal 2023 budget.

But he also stressed the importance of balancing ship procurement with investing in emerging technologies, an argument Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other administration officials have made as they defended the 2022 budget request.

“We can't be fighting the wars of yesterday,” he said. “We have to fight the new wars of tomorrow that include cybersecurity and space and many other challenges that are presented. So if confirmed, I look forward to jumping into the fiscal year '23 budget, and being able to address all these significant challenges in a serious way.”


On Monday, we told you about competing proposals in the Senate from Democrats and Republicans on a Capitol security funding bill, which would also include money for the National Guard.

The Hill’s Jordain Carney has taken a look at how the Senate is struggling to break a stalemate over the funding.

The threat of Capitol Police furloughs sparked bipartisan alarm bells late last week and raised public awareness about the impending fiscal cliff, which lawmakers warn the department could hit next month absent an infusion of new cash from Congress. 

Yet there are divisions over how much money to provide, and the two sides appear to be growing further apart.

As previously reported, the Democratic bill would provide $3.7 billion, including for the police and National Guard, but also goes further to include assistance for Afghans who helped the U.S. military, coronavirus-related funds, money to fund the Justice Department’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack and money to fortify and beef up the Capitol complex.

By contrast Senate Republicans have offered a narrower bill costing roughly $632 million for the National Guard, Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol. 

“I think that’s where our caucus is,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on Appropriations. He said Leahy’s bill went in “absolutely the wrong direction.” 

He added that he opposed including the visas for Afghans who helped the U.S. military in the bill, saying that “we will do that. Now we don’t need to do it on this bill.” 

The two top appropriators, who have cut many government funding deals, are pledging that they will keep negotiating. Neither appear ready to back down. 

In the House: The need to fund the National Guard’s deployment to the Capitol after Jan. 6 also came up at Tuesday’s House Appropriations Committee markup. Guard officials have warned that without funding, they will have to cancel training starting next month.

Rep. Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackFunding fight imperils National Guard ops Overnight Defense: 6B Pentagon spending bill advances | Navy secretary nominee glides through hearing | Obstacles mount in Capitol security funding fight GOP gambles with Pelosi in opposing Jan. 6 commission MORE (R-Ark.) offered an amendment to provide the National Guard with the $521 million it cost to deploy the Capitol. But he agreed to withdraw the amendment without it getting a vote since Tuesday’s markup was for a bill covering next fiscal year, not emergency funding.

The House in May passed a $1.9 billion Capitol security bill that included the Guard funding, but that bill was also seen by Senate Republicans as a non-starter.


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on fiscal 2022 budget request for the U.S. Agency for International Development with testimony from USAID Administrator Samantha PowerSamantha PowerHow Trump broke the system that offers protection to Afghan allies Aid airlift underway to earthquake-striken Haiti With Haiti in chaos, we must rewrite the script on disaster aid MORE at 10:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/3kfsIxF

Power will also testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on her agency’s budget request at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/36yG3Jn

A House Armed Services Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on the fiscal 2022 budget request for military construction, energy and environment programs with testimony from defense officials at 4 p.m. https://bit.ly/3r4O2Y8


-- The Hill: Biden nominates Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey

-- The Hill: Russia warns US against deploying troops in Central Asia after Afghanistan withdrawal

-- The Hill: US personnel sent to protect embassy in Haiti

-- The Hill: Taliban kills 22 Afghan soldiers trying to surrender: report

-- Wall Street Journal: Turkey, U.S. make progress in Kabul airport talks, prompting Taliban threat

-- Roll Call: Lawmakers pan Biden’s first Space Force budget

-- New York Times: It’s situation normal for US diplomats in Kabul, despite Taliban gains

-- Marine Corps Times: Maskless Marines on base must be prepared to show COVID-19 vaccination proof