Afghanistan

Border wall, nuclear weapons to spark partisan fight at defense bill debate
House Armed Services to being marathon annual markup on Wednesday

A protester shows support for the border wall at a September 2018 rally at the Capitol. The wall is expected to be a flashpoint at the annual Pentagon policy bill debate Wednesday at the House Armed Services panel. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Adam Smith’s first bill as House Armed Services chairman will surely stir contentious debate during the panel’s markup Wednesday of the annual Pentagon policy bill, a marathon session that is expected to extend into the early morning hours Thursday.

The chairman’s mark — the Washington Democrat’s portion of the massive defense authorization bill — tees up partisan fights on Guantanamo Bay, nuclear weapons and the border wall. It says nothing on President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force, an issue that Smith said Monday would likely find its way in the bill through a bipartisan amendment.

A nice chunk of change: Commemorative coins benefit all involved
Coin bills are a surprisingly competitive affair as lawmakers race to get their bills approved

Coin bills are one of the last remaining ways for an individual member of Congress to bring home the bacon. (Courtesy the U.S. Mint)

Two weeks a month, Stephanie Keegan travels from her home in New York’s Hudson Valley to Washington to lobby Congress on a host of veterans’ issues. Of late, she’s spent much of her time working on what would seem like an arcane matter — getting lawmakers to co-sponsor a bill that would create a commemorative coin honoring a museum for Purple Heart recipients.

But it is serious business and she uses a variety of tactics: making constant phone calls, showing up at offices unannounced, provoking moist eyes.

2,226 stairs can’t keep double amputee Rep. Brian Mast from reaching the top
It was the Florida Republican’s first Tunnel to Towers Climb

Florida Rep. Brian Mast, left, and fellow veteran Rob Jones participate in the Tunnel to Towers climb in New York City on Sunday.(Courtesy Office of Rep. Brian Mast)

Imagine climbing an arduous 2,226 stairs up 104 stories of a soaring New York City skyscraper — one step at a time, legs locked at the knee with only your hips to advance your lower body while your shoulders pull the rest of you up along the hand rail.

“Sore” and a few hand blisters is what Rep. Brian Mast has to show for conquering One World Trade Center this past weekend. The double amputee, who lost both legs in an IED blast while deployed in Afghanistan back in 2010, took on a challenge that required more resilience than strength.

Reps. Crenshaw, Gallagher, Waltz urge more GOP veterans to run for Congress
Republicans cite Democratic successes in 2018 midterms, and seek to recruit more veteran GOP candidates

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, and two other Republican House members are making a push to elect more GOP military veterans to Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Three Republican congressmen who served in the military are relaunching a PAC to help recruit more GOP veterans like themselves to run for Congress.

Reps. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Michael Waltz of Florida announced Wednesday they are forming the War Veterans Fund PAC this cycle, which aims to recruit Republican veterans of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to run in their home districts and assist them with funding.

Iran escalations bring war powers debates back to the Capitol
Sen. Tim Kaine expects debate behind closed doors at the Armed Services Committee

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch says President Donald Trump “doesn’t need any more authority than what he’s got” to respond to a potential attack. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)k

A Senate briefing by the Trump administration Tuesday about the escalation in tensions with Iran appears certain to kick off another round of sparring over the president’s war powers.

When asked last week whether President Donald Trump could strike Iran using existing authorities from the authorization for use of military force that was enacted after 9/11, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reflected on the history of disputes between the executive and legislative branches.

Senators ask Trump administration why the ‘American Taliban’ is getting out of prison early
John Walker Lindh has been on track for release on Thursday

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby wants to know why the “American Taliban” is in line for early release. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A bipartisan team of senators is asking the Trump administration why the convicted terrorist who became known as the “American Taliban” is about to get early release from federal prison.

And the questions are coming in part from the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Taliban money and fighter jets at issue in Pentagon's $690 billion bill
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 110

U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. fly off the coast of Northwest Fla. May 15, 2013, off the coast of Northwest Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen/Released)

House appropriators this week will take up the biggest of the 12 annual spending bills, the $690 billion Pentagon measure that includes some prickly issues such as funding for Taliban expenses for peace talks with the U.S. and money to give the Pentagon more F-35 fighter jets than it requested, says CQ Roll Call's senior defense reporter John M. Donnelly. He lays out what is likely to happen to the measure that assumes higher spending levels for fiscal 2020.

Pentagon knew peace-talks fund would ‘likely’ benefit Taliban
Document suggests some money would give ‘material support to terrorists’

Aerial view of the Pentagon building photographed on Sept. 24, 2017. ( Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Pentagon leaders formally asked Congress in writing earlier this year for a $30 million fund to support peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban, even though, the Defense Department officials wrote, it was “likely” some of the money would materially support terrorists.

The legislative proposal, obtained by CQ Roll Call, suggests that the fiscal 2020 money to cover logistics involved in the negotiations may directly or indirectly provide financial support to violent groups in Afghanistan that have been fighting Americans and their own countrymen, including in targeted attacks on civilians, for nearly 18 years.

Administration wants to reimburse Taliban’s travel expenses
As if ‘life imitating The Onion’ according to one taxpayer advocate

Taliban members would be reimbursed for their travel to peace talks if the Trump administration gets its way. House appropriators are not enthusiastic about the plan. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

The Trump administration asked Congress earlier this year for funds to reimburse Afghanistan’s Taliban for expenses the insurgent group incurs attending peace talks, according to a spokesman for the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The money would cover the Taliban’s costs for expenses such as transportation, lodging, food and supplies, said Kevin Spicer, spokesman for Indiana Democrat Peter J. Visclosky, in a statement for CQ Roll Call.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger throws hat into the ring for Air Force secretary
Kinzinger is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a defense hawk

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., walks down the House steps of the Capitol following the final votes of the week on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, once a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, said this weekend he would be honored to work under the commander-in-chief. 

Kinzinger, who serves in the Air National Guard, said if the president wanted him for the position of U.S. Secretary of the Air Force, he would consider the role.