Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense & National Security — Iron Dome funding clears House

It's Thursday, 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.

The House is spending Thursday with a marathon vote series that included approving Iron Dome funding and voting on more than a dozen of amendments to the annual defense policy bill.

Meanwhile, uproar over the Biden administration's handling of Haitian migrants at the U.S. southern border keeps building, including a resignation in protest from the administration's top Haiti envoy.

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.

House overwhelmingly supports Iron Dome funding

The House passed legislation on Thursday to provide $1 billion to support Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system after Democrats stripped the funding from a stopgap bill to prevent a government shutdown due to progressive objections earlier this week.

The standalone bill to ensure the Iron Dome funding passed handily on a bipartisan basis, 420-9, with two Democrats voting "present." Eight liberal Democrats and one Republican voted in opposition.

Dem divisions: The debate over the Iron Dome funding once again laid bare the internal Democratic divisions over Israel, which have repeatedly flared since they took over the House majority two years ago.

Those tensions flashed on the House floor Thursday  as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the lone Palestinian American member of Congress, spoke out against the Iron Dome funding.

"We cannot be talking only about Israelis' need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system," Tlaib said, calling the Israeli government "an apartheid regime."

"We should also be talking about Palestinian need for security from Israeli attacks," she said. 

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), who is Jewish, subsequently abandoned his prepared remarks and angrily blasted Tlaib for having "besmirched our ally."

"I cannot, I cannot allow one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and label the Jewish democratic state of Israel an apartheid state. I reject it," Deutch said.

What's next: The Senate is expected to consider the standalone Iron Dome funding bill at a later time.

House wrapping up NDAA

The House does not officially have vote-a-ramas like the Senate, but that's basically what's been happening Thursday.

Immediately after the Iron Dome vote, the House launched into voting on the 17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendments that were postponed from Wednesday.

As of writing this, the amendment votes are ongoing. When the amendments are done at some point Thursday night, the House will vote on passage of the NDAA.

The votes so far: Rep. Jamaal Bowman's (D-N.Y.) amendment to prohibit a U.S. troop presence in Syria unless Congress specifically authorizes it was rejected 141-286.

Both Rep. Ro Khanna's (D-Calif.) amendment and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks' (D-N.Y.) one dealing with U.S. support for the Saudis in Yemen passed.

Khanna's was approved 219-207 and would in part bar funding for "logistical support in the form of maintenance or the transfer of spare parts for aircraft that enable coalition strikes against the Houthis in Yemen."

Meeks' passed 223-204 and would suspend U.S. sustainment and maintenance support to Saudi air force units found to be responsible for airstrikes that caused civilian casualties, with exceptions for territorial self-defense, counterterrorism operations and defense of U.S. government facilities or personnel.

The House voted 198-231 to reject an amendment from Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) aimed at restricting the transfer of military-grade weapons to police departments. The amendment mirrored a provision that was included in a sweeping police reform bill passed by the House earlier this year, but talks on a compromise policing bill that could pass the Senate have collapsed.

The chamber also rejected, 118-299, Rep. John Garamendi's (D-Calif.) amendment to suspend funding for the intercontinental ballistic missile program known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and the W87-1 warhead modification program.

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TRUMP APPOINTEES SUE OVER BOARD REMOVAL

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought are suing President Biden over their ouster from the Board of Visitors at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., by America First Legal on behalf of Spicer - who is now a host at Newsmax - and Vought, both of whom served in the Trump administration.

America First Legal said the lawsuit was in response to the Biden administration's "unprecedented decision to oust them from their duly-appointed positions on the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Background: Earlier this month, the Biden administration pushed out all former President Trump's appointees to advisory boards for the Naval Academy, West Point and the Air Force Academy.

In addition to Spicer and Vought, some of other people ousted included Kellyanne Conway, who was tapped for the Air Force Academy's board; and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, former Army Vice Chief Gen. Jack Keane and controversial former Trump advisor Douglas Macgregor, who were all chosen for the West Point board.

The White House defended the move at the time by saying Biden has a right to appoint people to the boards who align with his values and the qualifications he deems necessary.

Haiti envoy quits

The U.S. special envoy to Haiti has resigned in protest over his nation's "inhumane treatment of migrants," a move that represents the sharpest internal criticism yet of the Biden administration's handling of Haitian migrants.

In a resignation letter, Daniel Foote, a former ambassador to Zambia, said he could not be associated with "inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees.

Foote further criticized U.S. policy toward Haiti and said the Biden administration has ignored his advice.

"Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own," Foote wrote in the letter obtained by The Hill and first reported by PBS News.

Context: Foote's resignation comes as the Biden administration faces intense backlash for its handling of Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas.

Thousands of Haitians are seeking to enter the country, and images this week of border agents on horseback corralling migrants stoked outrage.

Democrats have also been criticizing the resumption of flights deporting Haitians back to the island nation, which recently suffered a serious earthquake in August a month after its president was assassinated.

The Department of Homeland Security said later Thursday that it has temporarily suspended the use of horse patrols in Del Rio even as it works to ramp up controversial repatriation flights of Haitians camped under a bridge near the border.

State's response: State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement that there have been "multiple senior-level policy conversations on Haiti, where all proposals, including those led by Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process."

"Some of those proposals were determined to be harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and were rejected during the policy process. For him to say his proposals were ignored is simply false," Price added.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Atlantic Council will host Simon Coveney, Ireland's foreign and defense minister, for a discussion on Ireland's foreign policy priorities at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/39usDzH

A MESSAGE FROM AM GENERAL

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.

WHAT WE'RE READING

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

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