Defense & Cyberspace

Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon brings military experience and political savvy to his new job
A former Raytheon lobbyist Esper has been an Army officer, congressional staffer and a corporate lobbyist

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., left, speaks with then-Secretary Of The Army Mark Esper before the start of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, March 7, 2019. Esper has been tapped to be acting defense secretary by President Donald Trump after tweeting that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was out after six months on the job. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mark Esper has been an Army officer, congressional staffer and corporate lobbyist. Now the Army secretary is the third person President Donald Trump has tapped to lead the Pentagon.

In two tweets on Tuesday afternoon, Trump announced that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was out after six months on the job and Esper was promoted to the post, at least temporarily.

Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan gives up post, withdraws name from nomination
Shanahan was to succeed Mattis, who had differences with President Trump

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has stepped down, and Army Secretary Mark Esper will succeed him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has given up his post and withdrawn his nomination to take the job permanently, President Donald Trump tweeted, announcing yet another Cabinet change.

Army Secretary Mark Esper will be the new acting Pentagon boss, Trump said. Shanahan, a former defense industry executive, replaced retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis when he stepped down, citing differences with Trump.

Senate Democrats prioritize defense amendments to boost election security
Schumer makes public push for McConnell to allow NDAA votes on election security

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is prioritizing election security amendments to the NDAA. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

In one of the few chances they have to offer amendments this year, Senate Democrats are trying to prioritize efforts to keep Russia from further meddling in U.S. elections.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer made that clear Tuesday morning, highlighting Democrat-led efforts to amend the fiscal 2020 national defense authorization measure that is in line for floor consideration after several nomination votes.

Jon Stewart ups pressure on McConnell to shore up 9/11 survivor fund
‘You love the 9/11 community when it serves your political interests. But when they’re in urgent need, you slow-walk,’ he said

Entertainer and activist Jon Stewart holds up the jacket of first responder Ray Pfeifer before testifying at a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee as it considers permanent authorization of the Victim Compensation Fund in Washington on June 11, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Jon Stewart ratcheted up pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund in a late-night television appearance Monday night.

On “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the comedian continued to lobby for restoring payments to 9/11 responders and survivors who face medical bills and lost compensation. Stewart gave emotional testimony to the House Judiciary Committee last week, urging the Kentucky Republican to reauthorize the shrinking fund and not use it as a bargaining chip. 

Trump targets Florida electoral haul with Orlando campaign kick-off
Booming and diverse state presents challenge, and is key to re-election bid

Bikers after a Republican rally in Orlando, Fla., last November. For President Donald Trump, any hopes of winning a second term depend on him winning Florida and its 29 electoral votes again. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump will pull out all the stops Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, when he announces his re-election bid in a state he narrowly won in 2016 and needs again as he tries to reconfigure the electoral map that put him in the White House.

But Democrats are already countering his expected message of a strong economy and tough trade tactics, arguing that Trump’s tariffs are hurting middle-class voters and causing battleground states to shed jobs. That’s the message the party and many of its 2020 candidates are pushing in hopes of reversing Hillary Clinton’s 1-point loss in the Sunshine State three years ago. 

‘My way or the highway’: An approach to the NDAA debate
There are nearly 400 amendments filed to the bill, which has become law the past 58 years

Chairman James Inhofe, left, and ranking member Sen. Jack Reed are seen during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Inhofe will manage the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill starting as soon as Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate is expected to debate the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill this week, but it may be a debate in name only.

In the past six years, the Senate has approved scores of amendments to the mammoth Pentagon policy bill, known as the NDAA — short for National Defense Authorization Act. But almost all of them have been of the unobjectionable variety, approved by unanimous consent as part of huge packages of similarly uncontroversial proposals.

The politics behind spending limit negotiations
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 114

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said Democrats would be open to a one-year spending deal, but acknowledged it might create problems for getting another deal during an election year. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Road Ahead: Border supplemental talks could overshadow regular appropriations
Senate to begin NDAA debate while House votes on first fiscal 2020 spending package

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is among the senators hoping for a deal on a supplemental border operations package this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congressional leaders are hoping this week will produce a breakthrough in negotiations over emergency funding for the migrant crisis at the southern border so they can pass it before the Independence Day recess. 

President Donald Trump has requested Congress pass a $4.5 billion supplemental to help the Department of Homeland Security process the growing number of migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Senate rejects Paul bid to block arms sales to Bahrain, Qatar

A bid by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to block arms sales to Qatar and Bahrain fell short on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate on Thursday rejected a bid by Sen. Rand Paul to block arms sales to Qatar and Bahrain even as senators brace for a more contentious debate next week over proposed weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The vote Thursday means the proposed sales — a $3 billion Apache Helicopter package for Qatar and a $750 million munitions package to support Bahrain’s F-16 fleet — can go forward.

Panel approves pilot program to take military sexual assault cases outside chain of command
The number of sexual assaults at military service academies more than doubled 2013 to 2018, Speier said

Rep. Jackie Speier succeeded in getting her amendment to establish a program taking prosecution of military sex assault cases outside of the chain of command at the service academies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Advocates of taking the decision for prosecuting military sexual assaults — a persistent problem within the ranks — outside the chain of command scored a significant victory Wednesday when the House Armed Services Committee approved a pilot program that would do just that at the service academies.

Rep. Jackie Speier, chairwoman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, pushed through a four-year program that would require the commandants of the service academies to follow the recommendation of an independent prosecutor in cases of sexual assault.

Democrats spar with State official over arms sales maneuver

Rep. David Cicilline accused a senior State Department official of gas-lighting Congress in his assertions about why the administration needed to subvert Congress on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A senior State Department official on Wednesday appeared to blame Democrats for the administration’s decision last month to declare a state of emergency over Iran to avoid congressional review of billions of dollars of weapon sales to Arab Gulf states.

R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, attributed the emergency order to holds placed in spring 2018 by Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez on $2 billion in proposed precision-guided missile sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Menendez, D-N.J., placed the holds in response to the many civilian casualties in the Yemen civil war, in which the two Gulf nations are fighting against Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents.

Senate GOP border aid package to largely track Trump request
Top Democrat on Appropriations details demands that will earn votes on measure

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined the border supplemental aid package the Senate will move in the coming days. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans appear likely to bless President Donald Trump’s $4.5 billion emergency border funding request in its entirety, gambling that either just enough Democrats will fall in line or they’ll be able to send a signal to the White House that it’s time to negotiate.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up a yet-to-be-unveiled draft supplemental measure June 19. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday it will contain $4.5 billion, including “more than $3 billion” for food, shelter, medical care and other necessities for the thousands of unaccompanied minors and families seeking refuge from violence in their home countries, many from the “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Republicans move for House to adjourn over inaction on border crisis
GOP members use procedural delay tactic to highlight need for more funds at border

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, left, moved for the House to adjourn on Wednesday in protest over the Democratic majority not taking action on the president’s border supplemental funding request. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Frustrated over what they say is Democrats’ inaction on President Donald Trump’s request for more money to manage the migrant crisis at the border, a few House Republicans on Wednesday used a procedural motion to adjourn to protest on House floor.

The first motion to adjourn, offered by Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy, was defeated 146-244. The second, offered by Arizona GOP Rep. Andy Biggs, was also defeated, 140-254. 

Republican senator likely to push colleagues to curtail August recess again
David Perdue says he wants time to consider spending bills

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia is likely to seek at least a partial cancellation of the August recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. David Perdue says he is likely to again call for the Senate to cancel its August recess — or at least part of the five-week break — so lawmakers can work on spending bills.

“If we don’t get it done, I’m still of a mind that we need to be here in August. I don’t know how to be any other way. It’s just a reality. We’re not doing our jobs. We’re not getting it done,” the Georgia Republican said Tuesday at a pen-and-pad briefing.

Military bases unprepared for gathering climate change storm 
Responses to hurricanes, flooding already raising alarm bells in Congress and beyond

Months after Hurricane Michael struck Tyndall Air Force Base in October, the main hangar’s roof is badly damaged. (Elvina Nawaguna/CQ Roll Call file photo)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — A mangled red, white and blue patrol plane still lies across what was once a park here where families played and picnicked, nine months after Hurricane Michael stormed out of the Gulf of Mexico with its 155-mile-per-hour winds.

And beyond that wreckage and other detritus, about 300 of this Air Force base’s nearly 500 damaged buildings are slated to be razed. The Air Force wants at least $4.25 billion to rebuild Tyndall at its current location on the Florida panhandle, a process the 325th Fighter Wing commander, Col. Brian Laidlaw, said could take several years.