Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Senate punts on defense bill

It's Friday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

The Senate punted consideration of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) until after Thanksgiving.

We'll dive deeper into that, plus Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) calling for a probe into the 2019 Syrian airstrike that killed dozens of civilians.

For The Hill, I'm Jordan Williams. Write to me with tips at jwilliams@thehill.com

Let's get to it.

Senate to consider bill after Thanksgiving 

The Senate will resume consideration of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Nov. 29, punting the vote until lawmakers return from the Thanksgiving break after several Republicans demanded their amendments be included in the bill.

What happened? On Thursday, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee tried to reach a deal to set up votes on a package of 18 amendments on the bill.

However, seven Republicans stood up to block the deal unless their amendments were included in the package. 

The amendments: The amendments that were expected to get a vote included several priorities for both sides, such as whether to add a repeal of the 2002 Iraq War authorization. The package also included a push to remove language that would require women to sign up for selective service.

Republicans are also pushing to include legislation regarding the border wall, repealing vaccine requirements for Department of Defense contractors and the Nord 2 Stream Pipeline. 

Earlier on Thursday, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) indicated that the GOP also wanted amendment votes on lethal support for Ukraine and proposals regarding the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan.  

Read more about those developments here.

Quick flashback: The Senate voted Wednesday to get the bill over an initial hurdle, but has yet to begin formal debate or vote on any amendments. Democrats previously warned that they could cut into Thanksgiving recess in order to work on the bill.  

"Nothing is sacred when it comes to politics. We've been here Christmas Eve. We've been here New Year's Day. We've been here New Year's Eve. Nothing is sacred," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said earlier this week

And remember: The House passed this by a bipartisan 316-113 vote in late September.

A MESSAGE FROM BOEING

Boeing is helping the U.S. and its allies get ready for the future fight with digitally advanced, flexible real-time mission support to win at the speed of now. Learn more.

Warren calls for probe of Syrian airstrike 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is calling on the Senate Armed Services Committee to investigate the 2019 Syrian airstrike that killed dozens of civilians.

Warren, in a letter to committee chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), called for the panel to "immediately launch" a formal inquiry into the strike, which she called an "alleged war crime and cover up." 

The airstrike, investigated by The New York Times, was the largest civilian casualty incident in the war against the Islamic State and was even flagged by an Air Force lawyer as a potential war crime. However, top officers and civilian officials tried to hide the casualties.

What Warren wants: Warren, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, wants the panel to "compel testimony" from officials who had authority over the strike and any investigations that followed it. 

She also wants the panel to investigate the legal justifications of the strike, the civilian harm that it caused and the military's response to the reported casualties. 

"The Senate Armed Services Committee must seek answers about this strike and its aftermath and hold anyone found to be in violation of law or established procedures to account," the Massachusetts Democrat wrote. 

Growing scrutiny over U.S. airstrikes: Warren's letter comes amid growing scrutiny from both Congress and the Pentagon on how  the U.S. carries out airstrikes and their impact on civilians.

The Pentagon is currently in the middle of two reviews on how it conducts airstrikes, one of them will assess the Syrian strike.

Separately, Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) led dozens of bipartisan colleagues in sending a letter to President Biden on Thursday regarding the administration's authority to carry out airstrikes in Syria and Iraq without congressional approval. 

"The American people are tired of endless U.S. military involvement in overseas wars," reads the letter. "It is imperative that Congress and its Members, as representatives of the American people, exercise its constitutionally-granted war powers authorities to oversee and authorize any and all overseas military actions."

Read more here.

 

Ukraine asks for more military assistance 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov says he's asked the Pentagon for assistance as it deals with increasing tensions over Russia's military buildup close to Ukraine's borders. 

"We need to cover our sky and our sea," Reznikov told reporters outside of Ukraine's Embassy in D.C. on Friday, according to Bloomberg News.

The comment comes as concerns grow that Russia is preparing for a potential invasion of Ukraine like when Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in 2014. Russia has denied it is planning an invasion.

Reznikov met with Austin: Reznikov's comments come a day after he met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon.

According to a readout of the meeting, Austin "reaffirmed unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"The leaders discussed a range of security issues, including Russia's destabilizing actions in the region, and agreed to work closely together to advance the shared priorities outlined in the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework," the readout stated.

Which brings us to the numbers: The U.S. committed an additional $60 million to Ukraine under the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework, which was signed in August. 

Prior to the agreement, the U.S. committed $400 million to Ukraine in 2021 alone, and $2.5 billion to support Ukraine's military forces since 2014.  

Read more here.

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

  • The Royal Services' Institute will host a discussion on "A Transatlantic Approach to China-Engaging Indo-Pacific Regional Partners" at 10 a.m.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will continue its "China's Power: Up for Debate 2021" at 1:30 p.m. 
  • The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs will host a seminar on "Maritime Security and Peace on the Korean Peninsula" at 7 p.m.

A MESSAGE FROM BOEING

Boeing is helping the U.S. and its allies get ready for the future fight with digitally advanced, flexible real-time mission support to win at the speed of now. Learn more.

WHAT WE'RE READING

 

That's it for today. Check out The Hill's defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. Have a great weekend! See you Monday.

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