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: Congress moved a step closer Wednesday to repealing decades-old war authorizations.
Wednesday’s step came in the form of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advancing a bill from Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Va.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHow to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) Senate Democrats try to defuse GOP budget drama The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill MORE (R-Ind.) that would repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that signed off on the Iraq War, as well as the 1991 AUMF that greenlighted the Gulf War.
“Congresses of both parties have abdicated our responsibility regarding the power to declare war and allowed presidents of both parties to act unilaterally,” Kaine said. “Congressional action to repeal these authorizations will represent a step toward Congress taking its most solemn responsibility seriously.”
The breakdown: The panel voted 14-8 to approve the bill.
GOP tries to bring in Iran: Most Republicans have been arguing repealing the 2002 AUMF could hamstring U.S. counterterrorism missions -- which fall under the 2001 AUMF -- and embolden the Iran-backed militias that have been targeting U.S. forces in Iraq -- which the administration holds it has the authority to respond to under Article II of the Constitution.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Jim Risch (Idaho), acknowledged that taking the 2002 AUMF off the books would not stop a president from taking military action, but argued repealing it would be bad “messaging.”
“I’ll be the first to concede that whether 2002 exists or doesn’t exist, gets repealed or not get repealed, it will have zero effect on the decision by a chief executive, whether it’s this one or another one, to take action that the chief executive thinks needs to be taken,” Risch said. “I frankly come down on this that there’s just no reason to repeal it at this time that in any way endangers sending a message that we are committed to the region and committed to protecting our troops and American interests.”
GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Bill Hagerty (Tenn.) offered amendments Wednesday they argued would preserve the president’s options to respond to threats from Iran and Iran-backed militias.
Cruz’s amendment failed 9-13 and Hagerty’s failed 7-15, with Democrats arguing they would have been a back door authorization for military action against Iran.
What’s next: In a floor speech Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) reiterated his plan to bring the bill to the floor for a vote later this year.
The House has taken a slightly different approach. Rather than one bill, it passed two separate bills: one repealing the 2002 AUMF and the other repealing the 1991 AUMF and a 1957 resolution providing broad authorization for military action in the Middle East.
That means that if Kaine-Young passes the Senate, as is looking increasingly likely, the two chambers will still have to reconcile their differences before something lands on President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE’s desk.
OFFICER KILLED OUTSIDE PENTAGON ID'D
The Pentagon’s police force has identified the officer who was killed at a bus platform outside the building as Army veteran George Gonzalez.
In a statement Wednesday, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) described Gonzalez, a Brookyln, N.Y., native, as a “die-hard Yankees fan,” “gregarious,” “well-liked” and “respected by his fellow officers.”
Gonzalez joined the force in July 2018 and attained the rank of senior officer in 2020, according to the release.
He received a commendation medal for his service in Iraq, the release added.
“Officer Gonzalez embodied our values of integrity and service to others,” the statement said. “As we mourn the loss of Officer Gonzalez, our commitment to serve and protect is stronger.”
From his family: PFPA also released a statement from Gonzalez’s family Wednesday afternoon.
“We are heartbroken over the death of our son and brother, but we are so very very proud of the life he lived,” the statement said.
“George devoted his life to serving his country; first in the military, and then, as a law enforcement officer, he continued to serve by protecting service members and citizens of this country,” it continued. “He had an infectious personality and was fiercely loved by his family and friends. He loved his country, his family and the Yankees. He was one of the good guys with a big heart, and we will miss him always. We ask that you respect our privacy as we deal with the tragic and sudden loss.”
What happened: The FBI on Wednesday also provided the first official confirmation of what exactly happened outside the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Per the FBI, the suspect got off a bus about 10:40 a.m. at the Pentagon Transit Center and “immediately, without provocation” attacked Gonzalez with a knife, severely wounding him.
There was then a struggle, during which the suspect “mortally wound” Gonzalez and then shot himself with Gonzalez’s service gun, the FBI said.
“Other PFPA officers engaged the subject, who ultimately died at the scene,” the FBI’s Washington, D.C., office tweeted.
A civilian bystander was injured during the incident — which prompted a lockdown at the Pentagon — and was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The individual was later released, authorities said.
About the suspect: The FBI also identified the suspect as Austin William Lanz, 27, most recently of Acworth, Ga.
Lanz had recently been charged in Georgia with aggravated battery on police, making a terrorist threat and rioting in a penal institution after he was arrested in April outside Atlanta on criminal trespassing and burglary charges, according to multiple reports.
Lanz also reportedly tried to join the Marine Corps in October 2012 but was administratively separated less than a month later.
BIDEN ADMIN APPROVES $750M TAIWAN ARMS SALE
The Biden administration has approved its first arms sale to Taiwan, a move sure to stoke Beijing’s ire.
The State Department has approved selling Taiwan up to 40 BAE Systems-made M109 self-propelled howitzers and related equipment, including up to 1,698 kits to turn projectiles into precision-guided munitions, in a deal estimated to be worth $750 million, according to a notice released Wednesday.
“This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability,” the notice said. “The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region.”
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the nominees to be ambassadors to Senegal, Paraguay and Guinea at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/3yqTRly
-- The Hill: Military action may be needed to stop Iran attacks, Israel defense chief says
-- The Hill: Taliban claim responsibility for attack on minister's compound in Kabul
-- The Hill: Senators highlight national security threats from China during rare public hearing
-- The Hill: Opinion: New sanctions on Iran won't solve the Vienna impasse
-- The New York Times Magazine: ‘A poison in the system’: The epidemic of military sexual assault
-- Associated Press: Turkey says it won’t shoulder new Afghan migration, slams US
-- New York Times: US airstrikes in Afghanistan could be a sign of what comes next
-- San Diego Union-Tribune: Firefighting equipment was sabotaged prior to Bonhomme Richard blaze, search warrant suggests