Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly

Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly
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It's Monday, welcome to Overnight Defense, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

President BidenJoe BidenBiden: Democrats' spending plan is 'a bigger darn deal' than Obamacare Biden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Biden: Comment that DOJ should prosecute those who defy subpoenas 'not appropriate' MORE will address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this week on the heels of some dustups between the United States and its allies. 

The House is preparing to debate the annual defense policy bill and a slew of amendments touching on hot-button issues.

And the Biden administration will raise the refugee cap next fiscal year.

For The Hill, we’re Ellen Mitchell and Rebecca Kheel. Write to us with tips: emitchell@thehill.com and rkheel@thehill.com

Let’s get to it.

Cracks in global alliances hang over UNGA

Biden with Macron

It’s United Nations General Assembly time, and President Biden is slated to address the body on Tuesday.

The international gathering in New York comes at a time when some of Biden’s high-profile moves have been rankling U.S. allies.

Over the weekend, The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels took a look at how Biden’s pledge to reinvigorate U.S. alliances in faltering with recent developments including last week’s dustup with France over the U.S.-U.K.-Australian nuclear-powered submarine deal and the chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan.

The White House insists that Biden values U.S. alliances and is committed to bolstering those bonds, especially after four years of former President TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE testing those relationships with his combative nature and “America first” foreign policy.

But the recent developments nevertheless complicate Biden’s efforts, particularly with European allies.

One issue down: Progress was made Monday on at least one of the issues that has been coming between the U.S. and its allies as the Biden administration announced plans to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated international visitors beginning in early November.

All foreign visitors must be vaccinated against COVID-19, and must show proof of vaccination before boarding a U.S.-bound airline, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsWhite House details plans for vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council for Mental Wellbeing — NIH study finds mix-and-match boosters effective More than one-third of eligible seniors have received boosters, White House says MORE said. He added that visitors traveling by plane must also provide a negative test taken no more than 72 hours prior to flying.

French connection: Meanwhile, Biden is looking to hold a call with French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronFrench ambassador to Australia blasts sub deal with US: 'Way you treat your allies does resonate' America's subplot and Europe caught in the undertow UN agency to pay salaries of Afghan health care workers MORE to smooth over tensions after France reacted angrily last week to a new partnership between the U.S. and Australia on nuclear-powered submarines.

“President Biden has asked to be able to speak with President Macron to talk about the way forward, to talk about his deep commitment to the U.S. alliance with France, an alliance that has fostered security, stability and prosperity around the world for decades,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters on a call Monday.

A call between the two leaders has not been scheduled but the official indicated that it was likely to happen. A spokesman for Macron told The Associated Press over the weekend that Macron would speak with Biden in the coming days at the American president’s request.

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden says he would tap National Guard to help with supply chain issues GOP memo urges lawmakers to blame White House 'grinches' for Christmas delays Regional powers rally behind Taliban's request for humanitarian aid MORE told reporters later Monday afternoon that the call would take place “in the coming days” but that officials were still working to schedule it. She said that U.S. and French officials are in “active conversation about a call.” 


It’s not just U.S.-French relations and the withdrawal from Afghanistan looming over the General Assembly.

The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Alex Gangitano broke down five things to watch as Biden addresses and meets with his counterparts.

In addition to the clash with France over the subs and fallout from the Afghanistan withdrawal, look out for how COVID-19 looms over the event, whether any new climate initiatives are announced and how Biden looks for a reset on foreign policy priorities.

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NDAA in the House

U.S. Capitol

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is expected to come to the House floor later this week.

The House Rules Committee heard testimony Monday to sort through the hundreds of amendments that have been filed for the bill and will reconvene later in the evening to decide which ones will actually get floor votes.

At last count, 860 amendments have been filed — only a fraction typically make it to the floor.

But a scan through the list reveals the trends and hot-button issues on lawmakers’ minds. The full list is here, but here’s a quick rundown of a few of them.

Afghanistan: Plenty of amendments have been filed related to the Afghanistan withdrawal.

A couple seek to tweak the scope of the commission created by an amendment that was approved by the House Armed Services Committee.

Some call for inspector general investigations into the withdrawal.

Others deal with not recognizing the Taliban government, the fate of Afghan women and girls and continued efforts to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies still in the country.

And that’s just a smattering of the dozens of Afghanistan-related amendments. 

Money: A couple amendments from progressives would cut the defense budget.

One amendment would undo the $25 billion increase above the administration’s budget request that was approved by the House Armed Services Committee. Another would cut the defense budget by 10 percent.

Nukes: A Democratic amendment would prohibit funding for the intercontinental ballistic missile replacement program known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, as well as for the W87-1 warhead modification program.

War powers: Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeOvernight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Dip in COVID-19 cases offer possible sign of hope 'I was one of the lucky ones': Three Democrats recount their abortion stories to panel Three Democrats to share their abortion stories ahead of hearing MORE (D-Calif.) is back with her amendment to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force.

Women in the draft: A couple amendments seek to undo the bill’s provision that would require women to register for the draft.

On the flip side, a couple amendments would abolish the Selective Service System altogether, or at least eliminate the penalties for not registering.

GOP causes: There’s also a handful of Republican amendments responding to recent headlines or following GOP talking points, including ones purporting to ban critical race theory in the military and at service academies, one calling Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Navy probe reveals disastrous ship fire response Pentagon says almost half of Afghan evacuees at US bases are children Russian fighters escort US bombers over Black Sea MORE and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyPoll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Republicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' We've left Afghanistan — but its consequences are just starting to arrive MORE “unfit” and calling on them to resign, and one that would reinstate the service academy board members who were appointed by former President Trump and were recently removed by Biden.

Manager’s amendment: Typically, the so-called “manager’s amendment” just makes some technical and clerical fixes.

But this year’s manager’s amendment would also make a change of substance. It would take out part of an amendment approved by the committee that would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress in order to waive the law barring recently retired generals from running the Pentagon. The committee-approved amendment’s provision increasing the cooling off period from seven years to 10 years would remain.


Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaProposals to reform supports for parents face chopping block Democrats see light at end of tunnel on Biden agenda Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Navy probe reveals disastrous ship fire response MORE (D-Calif.) is also back with his amendment to end all U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

And on Monday, more than 50 anti-war groups sent a letter to Congress tacitly backing Khanna’s measure.

In the letter, which was obtained first by The Hill, the organizations called on lawmakers to use the NDAA to “legislate an end to ongoing U.S. complicity in the war and blockade in Yemen.”

“By suspending the sale of arms and ending U.S. participation in the Saudi coalition’s war and blockade, Congress can prevent a humanitarian catastrophe from spiraling further out of control as it reasserts its constitutional authority on matters of war and peace,” the 56 organizations wrote in the letter.

Biden raising refugee cap

Afghans displaced from their homes due to the Taliban takeover arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., on Monday, August 30, 2021.

The Biden administration on Monday said it would raise the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 in fiscal 2022, meeting a target that Biden set during his presidential campaign.

The State Department said it transmitted a report to relevant congressional committees recommending “an increase in the refugee admissions target from 62,500 in Fiscal Year 2021 to 125,000 in Fiscal Year 2022 to address needs generated by humanitarian crises around the globe.” The next fiscal year begins in October.

Background: Biden endured a torrent of criticism earlier this year when the White House announced he would keep the Trump administration’s record-low refugee cap of 15,000. The White House quickly changed course, saying the figure wasn’t final. Weeks later, the administration raised the cap to 62,500.

By the numbers: According to the report, the administration would allocate 40,000 slots for refugees from Africa; 15,000 for those from East Asia; 10,000 for those from Europe and Central Asia; 15,000 for those from Latin America and the Caribbean; 35,000 for those from the Near East and South Asia; and 10,000 unallocated.


Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayoraks, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid will testify about threats to the homeland before the Senate Homeland Security Committee at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/2XyVzn8

The Senate Armed Services Committee will have a closed-door briefing on Defense Department support for Afghans who have recently left Afghanistan at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/3AEgOm8

A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on Nicaragua with testimony from a State Department official and outside experts at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/2XL8K55

AM General has a strong legacy of designing, manufacturing and supporting iconic, high-quality military, commercial, and consumer vehicles. We offer versatile vehicles, innovative product solutions, and end-to-end support that keeps pace with the changing world.


That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. We’ll see you Tuesday.