Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: GOP faces long odds on provision changing Confederate-named bases | Russian aircraft intercepted off Alaska for second time in week | Trump to host Polish president with defense on agenda

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: The odds are looking slim that Republicans who want to change a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to take Confederate names off U.S. military bases will be successful.

The Hill’s Jordain Carney took a look at the long odds, writing that the problem for proponents of changing the language is that their options are extremely limited and would require help from Democrats.

Senators file hundreds of amendments to the NDAA every year, but there’s no guarantee they’ll get a vote. In recent years, the Senate has held only a handful of roll call votes amid a stalemate on which proposal should be allowed to be brought up.

To get a vote on this particular provision, senators will need consent to bring up their amendment and make it pending, a step that puts it in line to get a vote. But, underscoring the difficulty for removing the language from the bill, any one senator, namely Democrats, could object to that effort.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could alternatively try to force a vote on an amendment by filing cloture, but that would require 60 votes and give Democrats another attempt to block it.

But in a potential blow to supporters of rewording the provision, McConnell indicated Tuesday he was open to changing Confederate-named bases.

“I can only speak for myself on this issue. If it’s appropriate to take another look at these names, I’m personally OK with that,” McConnell told reporters, adding that he had not discussed the provision in the defense bill with Trump.

“For myself, with regard to military bases, whatever is ultimately decided I don’t have a problem with,” he added.

Timing: McConnell announced Wednesday that he would bring up Senate Republicans’ police reform bill for a vote next week.

That means the timing on when the full Senate takes up the NDAA is in flux, depending on how long consideration of the police bill lasts and if Democrats block a motion to proceed to the police bill.

The Senate is scheduled to start a Fourth of July recess July 3 and return July 20.

In other amendment news: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tweeted Wednesday she would introduce an NDAA amendment to reverse the Trump administration’s transgender military ban.

The announcement comes on the heels of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling barring discrimination against LGBT workers.

“I will introduce an amendment to this year’s defense bill to make clear that this week’s Supreme Court decision to protect LGBTQ employees applies to our military. We have to put a clear end to Trump’s hateful ban on transgender service,” Gillibrand tweeted.

“Even with Monday’s landmark SCOTUS ruling, our military can still openly discriminate against transgender people because of Trump’s hateful ban. I’m introducing an amendment to ensure these protections extend to trans service members. The facts, law, and evidence are on our side,” she added in a second tweet.

But, as noted above, few, if any, NDAA amendments are expected to get a vote on the Senate floor.

RUSSIA’S BACK, BACK AGAIN: For the second time in a week, U.S. fighter jets have intercepted Russian aircraft off the coast of Alaska.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a Wednesday statement that U.S. F-22 Raptors, backed by KC-135 aerial refueling tankers and an E-3 early warning aircraft, intercepted two Russian bomber formations in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone Tuesday night.

The first formation consisted of two Russian Tu-95 bombers, two Su-35 fighter jets and an A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, while the second had two bombers and an A-50. Both came within 32 nautical miles of the Alaskan coast but did not enter U.S. airspace, NORAD said.

Eighth time’s the charm?: Tuesday night’s intercept came just less than a week after a similar incident where U.S. jets intercepted Russian bomber formations that got as close as 20 nautical miles off the coast of Alaska.

NORAD also said the latest intercept marked the eighth time the Russians have flown close Alaska or Canada this year.

“For the eighth time this year, Russian military aircraft have penetrated our Canadian or Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zones and each and every time NORAD forces were ready to meet this challenge,” NORAD commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy said in the statement.

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, NORAD constantly monitors the northern approaches to our nations and our operations make it clear that we will conduct homeland defense efforts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”

POLISH PRESIDENT COMING TO WHITE HOUSE: President Trump will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda later this month at the White House, marking the first official visit from a foreign leader in over three months during the coronavirus pandemic.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that Duda would visit the White House on June 24, a meeting that is expected to touch on cooperation between the United States and Poland on defense, trade and other issues.

“The visit comes at a critical time for both the United States and Poland, as we reopen our countries after months of battling the coronavirus pandemic,” McEnany said.

“As close partners and NATO allies, the United States and Poland continue to expand our cooperation across a wide range of issues. President Trump and President Duda will discuss further advancing our cooperation on defense, as well as trade, energy and telecommunications security,” the press secretary added.

It is possible that Trump could announce an agreement to boost U.S. troop presence in Poland during the meeting later this month.


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on COVID-19 and international pandemic preparedness with testimony from officials from the State and Health and Human Services department and the U.S. Agency for International Development at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/3hEXagQ

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson to be chief of the National Guard Bureau and Gen. Gustave Perna to be chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/2YEveRG


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Tags Donald Trump Kirsten Gillibrand Mitch McConnell

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