Defense & Cyberspace

U.N. pick asked why almost half her days as Canada’s ambassador were spent elsewhere
Menendez noted the U.N. ambassador was away from her post for 300 days from Oct. 23, 2017, to June 19, 2019

Kelly Knight Craft, nominee to be ambassador to Canada, attends her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building on July 20, 2017. She was chided Wednesday by a senior Senate Democrat for the “excessive” time she spent away from her current post as ambassador to Canada. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.N. ambassador, who is also a close friend of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was chided Wednesday by a senior Senate Democrat for the “excessive” time she spent away from her current post as ambassador to Canada.

Kelly Knight Craft, a longtime Republican Party fundraiser and business consultant from Kentucky whose billionaire husband’s fortune comes from the coal business, does not have the diplomatic resume typical for envoys to the U.N. But her friendship of McConnell, R-Ky., virtually guarantees her confirmation.

James Inhofe and the art of the bipartisan joke
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 78

Senate Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe and ranking member Jack Reed have a warm relationship that enables them to move bipartisan legislation, something Inhofe discusses in the latest Political Theater podcast. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. James M. Inhofe is one conservative guy, and he is proud of it, trumpeting vote-tracking organizations that peg him as the most right-wing in the chamber. And yet, the Oklahoma Republican has an equally proud history of working with some of his most liberal colleagues on bipartisan legislation. 

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he and Rhode Island’s Jack Reed, the panel’s ranking Democrat, constructed the highly popular defense authorization bill the last two years. And before that, he worked quite productively with California Democrat Barbara Boxer, the yin to Inhofe’s yang on environmental issues, as leaders of the Environment and Public Works Committee. This, despite Inhofe writing a book that claimed global warming was, as the title attested, “The Greatest Hoax.” And yet, “We prided ourselves in getting things done,” he says. 

Pentagon aid to Taliban gets blocked by House vote
The House adopted an amendment that would bar the Pentagon from spending any funds to aid the Taliban

Members of the Taliban surrender themselves to the Afghan Government, on August 26, 2011 in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. The House adopted an amendment late Tuesday night barring the Pentagon from spending any of its funds to aid the Taliban insurgent group in Afghanistan. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

The House adopted late Tuesday night an amendment to its fiscal 2020 Defense appropriations bill that would bar the Pentagon from spending any of its funds to aid the Taliban insurgent group in Afghanistan.

CQ Roll Call disclosed last month that the Pentagon had asked Congress earlier this year for a $30 million fund that would at least partly be used in the coming fiscal year to defray the Taliban’s expenses associated with participating in talks to end the nearly 18-year-old war.

Trump’s military transgender ban blocked in House spending bill
The House move lines up what will surely be a battle with the Senate during conference negotiations later this year.

Aerial view of the Pentagon building photographed on Sept. 24, 2017. The House decision to block a Trump ban of transgender people from serving in the military in the 4-bill spending package lines up what will surely be a battle with the Senate during conference negotiations later this year. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House on Tuesday used a massive spending bill to block the Pentagon from enforcing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people from serving openly in the military.

By a vote of 243-183, the House adopted an amendment to the four-bill spending package that includes the defense appropriations measure, lining up what will surely be a battle with the Senate during conference negotiations later this year.

Congressional leaders, White House give spending caps talks another try
Fall government shutdown looms if both sides can’t agree on a deal

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, center right, here with ranking member Patrick J. Leahy, says both sides are closer to a deal on spending caps than they have been to date. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

White House officials plan to meet with congressional leaders Wednesday — for the second time in as many months — to reach a deal on spending limits that would prevent another government shutdown this fall.

The first meeting, on May 21, produced some initial hopes that a bipartisan deal could be reached relatively quickly, avoiding a breakdown in the appropriations process when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Drums of looming Iran war resound in Congress
As NDAA debate begins, McConnell urges colleagues ‘to keep these deadly serious developments at the top of our minds’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged colleagues to keep Iran developments at the top of their minds. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate is launching a debate on its annual defense authorization bill this week amid the specter of war with Iran.

It is not clear to what extent possible U.S. military strikes on Iran will play a role in debate on the $750 billion measure or, for that matter, in a separate vote this week on blocking U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch foe.

Capitol Ink | Blinksmanship

Roy argues for wall funding

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, speaks during a press conference on the situation at the southern border in Washington on Tuesday June 18, 2019. Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call

House Democrats vote to block diplomats’ funds from going to Trump hotels, golf resorts
Republicans slam amendment as ‘partisan stunt’

General views of the Trump International Golf Club in Doonbeg, Ireland, where President Donald Trump stayed during his visit to the country earlier this month. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Updated 8:24 p.m. | House Democrats offered another rebuke to President Donald Trump on Tuesday, this time by voting to block the State Department from spending taxpayers' money at his domestic and overseas golf clubs and hotels.

The House voted 231-187 to adopt an amendment that would prohibit the department from spending funds at any of the Trump Organization’s hundreds of hotels, golf resorts and other properties. The provision was voted on as part of an en bloc package of amendments that Democratic leaders put together to avoid the risk of floor time being eaten up by roll call votes on each.

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

Sen. Jack Reed, left, speaks with Army Secretary Mark Esper before the start of an Armed Services hearing in March. President Donald Trump on Tuesday tapped Esper to be acting Defense secretary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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, at least temporarily.

In two tweets Tuesday afternoon, Trump announced that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was out after six months on the job — and was withdrawing from consideration for the permanent post to “devote more time to his family.” Esper, in turn, got promoted and a ringing endorsement from the commander in chief.

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.