Senate sends budget-busting defense bill to Trump

The Senate gave final approval to the $700 billion compromise defense policy bill Thursday that would advocate a major military buildup called for by congressional defense hawks, but would bust through strict caps on defense spending to do it.

The National Defense Authorization Act was quickly passed by voice vote, without any final debate or dissent, and now heads to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

The final compromise is the product of joint conference talks between House and Senate Armed Services leaders.

Led by Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) and House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), lawmakers hammered out the differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill in only a few weeks. The House passed the final NDAA on Tuesday, 356-70.

The measure would authorize just under $700 billion in national defense spending for this 2018 fiscal year. The Continue reading “Senate sends budget-busting defense bill to Trump”

House passes $700B compromise defense bill

The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a $700 billion compromise defense policy bill that would authorize a military buildup beyond that proposed by President Donald Trump, but vastly exceed the cap on defense spending to fund it.

The vote was 356-70.

The Senate will debate the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act after Thanksgiving and is expected to handily approve it and send it to the president for his signature.

With fewer contentious issues than in previous years, the annual legislation was hammered out by House and Senate Armed Services leaders in just a few weeks.

In all, the measure would authorize nearly $700 billion in national defense spending. Within that, the bill endorses $626.4 billion in base spending, including $20.6 billion for nuclear national security programs under the Energy Department. And it would authorize $65.7 billion for a separate Pentagon war account.

The legislation, which tallies Continue reading “House passes $700B compromise defense bill”

Pentagon health nominee: It’s ‘insane’ civilians can purchase assault weapons

President Donald Trump’s pick to be the Pentagon’s top health official today criticized as "insane" a civilian’s access to semi-automatic weapons like the one used Sunday in the Texas church shooting.

"I’d also like to — and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee — just say, you know, how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy … a semi-automatic assault rifle like an AR-15, which apparently was the weapon that was used," Dean Winslow, a physician and retired Air Force colonel nominated to be the assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, said during his Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing.

"I think that’s an issue not as much for this committee, but elsewhere," he added.

The statement drew a swift rebuke from the panel’s chairman, John McCain (R-Ariz.).

"Dr. Winslow, I don’t think that’s in Continue reading “Pentagon health nominee: It’s ‘insane’ civilians can purchase assault weapons”

Pentagon health nominee: It’s ‘insane’ civilians can purchase assault weapons

President Donald Trump’s pick to be the Pentagon’s top health official today criticized as "insane" a civilian’s access to semi-automatic weapons like the one used Sunday in the Texas church shooting.

"I’d also like to — and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee — just say, you know, how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy … a semi-automatic assault rifle like an AR-15, which apparently was the weapon that was used," Dean Winslow, a physician and retired Air Force colonel nominated to be the assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, said during his Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing.

"I think that’s an issue not as much for this committee, but elsewhere," he added.

The statement drew a swift rebuke from the panel’s chairman, John McCain (R-Ariz.).

"Dr. Winslow, I don’t think that’s in Continue reading “Pentagon health nominee: It’s ‘insane’ civilians can purchase assault weapons”

White House seeks another $4B to counter North Korean threats

President Donald Trump has requested another $4 billion for the Pentagon to counter North Korean threats in a new budget amendment sent to Congress today.

The president is currently on a 13-day tour of Asia, arriving in South Korea Tuesday, and he has made countering North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs a key focus of the trip.

"This request supports additional efforts to detect, defeat and defend against any North Korean use of ballistic missiles against the United States, its deployed forces, allies, or partners," the request said.

The White House is asking for a total of an additional $5.9 billion, including $1.2 billion to support growing troop levels in Afghanistan.

The request, obtained by POLITICO, also includes another $700 million to repair damages to the Navy destroyers USS Fitzgerald and John McCain after the destroyers were involved in separate collisions in the Pacific that killed 17 Continue reading “White House seeks another $4B to counter North Korean threats”

McCain calls for war powers debate after Niger attack

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday seized on the deadly ambush in Niger to call for a new congressional authorization for U.S. military operations overseas.

McCain told reporters Monday that he and the Armed Services panel’s top Democrat, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, are working on a proposal to update the broad war powers Congress gave the commander-in-chief after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The deaths of four U.S. soldiers in Niger earlier this month have stoked fresh interest in a new war powers vote, which the Trump administration has indicated it would not oppose — although it says it has all the legal authority it needs to conduct anti-terrorism operations under the existing 2001 authorization.

“We’re going to have to have” an updated authorization for the use of military force, said McCain who has previously called for a new war powers resolution.

Still, Continue reading “McCain calls for war powers debate after Niger attack”

McCain says he’s ‘feeling good,’ plans to work during cancer treatment

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain said Wednesday he’s "feeling good" just days after starting treatment for brain cancer and vowed to continue working and return to the Senate in September.

The Arizona Republican sounded an upbeat note in an interview on "The Mike Broomhead Show" on Phoenix talk radio station KFYI, his first since he began treatment Monday.

"It’s a tough challenge, of course, but [I’m] getting the best care you can possibly have. I’m eating well and feeling fine, getting plenty of exercise," McCain said.

McCain’s office announced last week he would undergo a regimen of radiation and chemotherapy, missing the two weeks this month that the Senate plans to be in session. But McCain reiterated Wednesday he continues to work during treatment and he’ll "be ready to go back to work in September."

"I’m doing the things we do during the recess — having meetings, appointments. Continue reading “McCain says he’s ‘feeling good,’ plans to work during cancer treatment”