Defense & Cyberspace

White House officials fan out to sell budget, debt limit pact
Fiscal hawks blast agreement: ‘Washington has all but abandoned economic sanity’

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arrives to attend the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in the Capitol on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited Senate Republicans Tuesday to try to shore up support for the two-year spending caps and debt limit accord, amid bipartisan concern with tacking another $324 billion onto deficits — a figure that could more than quintuple when spread out over a decade.

Mnuchin sought to reassure Republicans at their weekly policy luncheon that President Donald Trump in fact supports the deal he reached Monday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, according to Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby and others.

Senate confirms Esper to be Defense secretary
The vote ends an eight-month period during which the massive bureaucracy was led by a series of acting leaders

Chiarman Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., left, shakes hands with Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper before the start of Esper’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 16, 2019. He was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Mark Esper to be the next Defense secretary, 90-8, bringing to an end an eight-month period during which the massive bureaucracy was led by a series of acting leaders.

Esper, who has served as Army secretary since 2017, follows James Mattis as President Donald Trump’s second Senate-confirmed Defense secretary.

Kyrsten Sinema invokes memory of John McCain in maiden speech
Arizona Senator uses address to advocate for her legislation to combat veteran suicide

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., delivered her maiden speech on the floor on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In her maiden speech on the Senate floor, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema invoked the courage of the late Sen. John McCain and recounted the tragic story of a veteran’s suicide that might have been prevented with better access to appropriate mental health care.

Sinema, a Democrat, said she is committed to making sure veterans don’t feel trapped, as Sgt. Daniel Somers did when he committed suicide in 2013, and shining a light on the 20 veterans who die everyday as a result of suicide.

House Democrats apologize to India ambassador for Trump’s ‘amateurish’ claim about Kashmir
Trump claimed Indian prime minister asked him to mediate Kashmir dispute between his country and Pakistan

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., left, and Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., attend a committee markup in the Rayburn Building on May 17, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee spoke with India’s ambassador to the U.S., Harsh Shringla, on Monday to apologize for President Donald Trump’s claim that he was asked by the Indian prime minister to mediate the Kashmir territorial conflict between his country and Pakistan.

“Everyone who knows anything about foreign policy in South Asia knows that India consistently opposes third-party mediation [regarding] Kashmir,” Rep. Brad Sherman of California tweeted Monday. “Everyone knows [Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi] would never suggest such a thing. Trump’s statement is amateurish and delusional. And embarrassing,” he wrote.

What counts as ‘foundational’ tech?
As Commerce gears up for export debate, definitions remain in dispute

An attendee participates in a augmented reality demonstration to show how lidar, or light detection and ranging, works during a briefing on autonomous vehicles in June. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

In the coming weeks, the Commerce Department plans to announce a notice seeking comments on how it should draw up export control rules for so-called foundational technologies, similar to an effort the agency launched in November 2018 for a category called “emerging” technologies.

The rules were mandated after Congress passed the 2019 defense authorization act calling on the Commerce Department to establish export controls on “emerging and foundational technologies” that are critical to U.S. national security. But tech companies, universities, and research labs across the country continue to be alarmed that overly broad export restrictions could ultimately hurt American technological superiority.

What we know so far about the budget, debt limit deal
CQ Budget podcast, Episode 119

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to clear the debt deal this week before the chamber departs for the August recess. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Congress is racing to complete work on some big-ticket items before adjourning for the August recess. CQ Roll Call’s budget and appropriations reporter Kellie Mejdrich reports on a deal to extend the debt limit and set spending levels for two years. And finance reporter Doug Sword explains why the House plans to vote on a bill to shore up struggling pension plans.  Meanwhile, the Senate plans to give final approval of a permanent compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Show notes:

Trump, Democrats split differences in two-year budget deal
Negotiators are still working on some ‘technical language’ issues

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been updating President Donald Trump on talks between him and Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a potential deal on spending caps and the debt limit. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 4:15 p.m. | The White House and congressional leaders are close to unveiling a spending and debt limit deal that would boost funding levels by nearly 4 percent across federal agencies, wiping out the 10 percent cuts that were scheduled to take effect under current law.

According to sources familiar with the proposal, the deal calls for a topline defense figure of $738 billion in fiscal 2020, or slightly higher than the House Democrats’ initial request for $733 billion, but short of the Trump administration’s $750 billion request, which includes cap-exempt accounts for troops serving in conflict zones overseas.

Army in ascendance with leaders poised for top Pentagon posts
Mark Esper and Mark Milley expected to give service a place of new prominence

Army Secretary Mark Esper, left, and Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley are heading to the Pentagon, where their presence could give the embattled service a new place of prominence. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Army Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the service’s chief, will soon take their partnership to the highest levels of the Pentagon as both men are poised for speedy confirmation to be the next Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

Their close working relationship could help provide stability at the Pentagon, where many of the top jobs are filled by acting heads. Meanwhile, their deep ties to the Army could give the sometimes embattled service — which has struggled for two decades to modernize its force and adapt to a new era of warfare — a place of new prominence in the Pentagon.

Road ahead: All eyes on the budget and debt limit deal, except when Mueller testifies
House to tackle border issues, while Senate will confirm Defense secretary, clear 9/11 compensation bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to clear the debt deal this week before the chamber departs for the August recess. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

All eyes this week will be on whether House lawmakers are able to pass a deal to raise the debt limit and set spending levels for the next two years before leaving for the August recess on Friday.

That is except, of course, when former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III seizes all the attention when he testifies before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

Trump seeks Supreme Court help on building border wall quickly
Trump administration officials want Supreme Court help to build border barrier before Congress thwarts them Oct. 1

A border fence is seen near the Rio Grande which marks the boundary between Mexico and the United States on February 09, 2019 in Eagle Pass, Texas. The border has become a point of contention as the U.S. President Donald Trump wants to build a wall and the Democrats in Congress are asking for other border security measures. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Trump administration officials want the Supreme Court to help them hurry up and spend up to $2.5 billion to construct a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border before Congress thwarts them with new spending legislation on Oct. 1.

The administration argues it needs a ruling from the Supreme Court by July 26 so it can spend money on border wall construction before the fiscal 2019 spending law lapses on Sept. 30.

White House offers up extensive menu of cuts for spending caps deal
The administration wants at least $150 billion in savings

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading the talks for her side of the aisle. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Trump administration has laid out a wide array of spending cuts and tweaks to mandatory programs for Democratic leaders to consider for inclusion in a two-year discretionary caps and debt limit package.

The White House offsets menu includes $574 billion culled from items in President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request, according to a source familiar with the proposal. In addition, there’s $516 billion in “structural reforms” obtained by extending current discretionary spending limits by another two years, through fiscal 2023.

Trump: US shoots down Iranian drone in Strait of Hormuz
‘The drone was immediately destroyed,’ the president said

President Donald Trump and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) talk to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House July 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. According to the Dutch government, the two leaders will discuss defense and security cooperation, especially focused on whether the Netherlands will participate in a global effort to secure international waterways against threats from Iran. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Trump said U.S. forces shot down an Iranian drone that was operating too close to an American vessel.

Trump said the drone was shot down in the Strait of Hormuz, an important shipping lane that provides the only access to open ocean from the Persian Gulf. He called on other countries to condemn Iran and protect their own ships.

Secret Service pressed for plan to avoid future Mar-a-Lago security breaches
A 33-year-old Chinese woman was arrested with malware, other suspicious items

President Donald Trump walks to speak with supporters after arriving on Air Force One at the Palm Beach International Airport to spend Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort on April 18, 2019. ( Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Three senior Senate Democrats are pressing the U.S. Secret Service on whether security has been beefed up at President Donald Trump’s Florida and New Jersey resorts after a 33-year-old Chinese woman talked her way into his Mar-a-Lago property while he was there.

Yujing Zhang, 33, pleaded not guilty on charges of trespassing and lying to U.S. Secret Service agents after being arrested March 30 at the president’s Florida resort. When searched, she was found carrying a pair of passports, four mobile devices, a laptop computer, a thumb drive allegedly containing malware and one external hard drive.

Armed Services panel to huddle on three top Pentagon nominees
Joint Chiefs vice chairman nominee faces stiff headwinds

The committee will probably vote overwhelmingly to give its consent to Army Secretary Mark Esper becoming the next Pentagon chief. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee, in a closed-door meeting Thursday, is expected to approve the president’s choice for Defense secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and to discuss the embattled nomination of the Air Force general tapped to be the military’s No. 2 general, committee members and staff said Wednesday.

The committee will probably vote overwhelmingly to give its consent to Army Secretary Mark Esper becoming the next Pentagon chief, clearing the way for a Senate vote in the coming days to confirm him. The panel is also expected to send to the floor the nomination of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to be the next Joint Chiefs chairman.

Defense conferees to decide fate of firearms export oversight
Decision nears on blocking the Trump administration from weakening regulations on the export of firearms

Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif. added an amendment restricting the administration from moving forward with its plan to shift export control of firearm sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Among the many thorny issues Senate and House negotiators have to hash out as they negotiate a final annual defense policy bill this summer is whether to block the Trump administration from weakening regulations around the export of firearms.

The House version of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization measure contains a provision that would restrict the administration from moving forward with its plan to shift export control of firearm sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department.