Connor O'Brien

Gitmo Closure Cost Emerges as Sticking Point

Several of President Barack Obama’s leading GOP critics on Wednesday seized on reports that Pentagon officials believe replacing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, with one in the United States could cost more than half a billion dollars.

Ryan Wants a Bigger Navy, 'Big Time'

The moment House Republican defense hawks have been waiting for is finally here: the new House Speaker is one of them. And he wants a bigger Navy.

Senate Clears NDAA with Veto-Proof Majority

Annual defense policy legislation was cleared by the Senate Wednesday and is headed to the White House by a veto-proof majority, though Democratic leaders have vowed to sustain the president's objection.

Reid Vows to Uphold Veto as Senate Cuts Off NDAA Debate

Annual defense policy legislation could be headed to the White House as soon as Wednesday after the Senate voted to cut off debate on the measure, even as the chamber's top Democrat pledged his caucus would vote to sustain a promised presidential veto.

Petraeus Apologizes for Scandal Before Senate Committee
 

In his first appearance before Congress since his resignation in 2012, former CIA Director Gen. David H. Petraeus apologized Tuesday morning for the extramarital affair and ensuing scandal that led to his departure.

House Leaning Toward VA 'Choice' Vote, but With Strings

Lawmakers appear ready to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs has access to the money it needs to prevent a shutdown of its hospitals this August, but there will probably be strings attached.

House Scraps NDAA Conference Vote Amid 'Blue Slip' Hang Up

The House and Senate conference on their annual defense policy bill isn't happening. At least not today.

Armed Services Chairmen Aiming for Conference on NDAA Next Month

The Senate just passed its fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill, but Armed Services Chairman John McCain and his House counterpart, Mac Thornberry, are already saying a compromise can be reached on final legislation within weeks.

Senate Adopts Amendment Banning Torture
 

In a wide 78-21 vote, the Senate adopted the amendment as it continued consideration of the annual defense authorization legislation. Thirty-two Republicans joined all Democrats to approve the proposal.

Senators Nix $250K in National Guard Paintings

Lawmakers have nixed a series of historical paintings to be commissioned by the National Guard, totaling a quarter million dollars, as part of annual authorizing legislation and amid the Pentagon's argument that the president's proposed defense budget represents the bare minimum that can be spent on national defense in the coming year.

Congress Flatlines VA Construction Budget

Congressional consternation with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ handling of large construction projects has been stewing for some time, and 2015 appears to be the year lawmakers intend to put their feet down.

Deadline Puts Focus on Denver VA Hospital Project

As if Congress doesn’t have enough to do before its Memorial Day recess, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald has warned lawmakers that unless they authorize more money by next week for building the new veterans hospital in Denver, the project will probably come to a halt.

House Rules Tees Up 135 Defense Authorization Amendments

The House Rules Committee on Wednesday night allowed for 135 amendments to be offered to the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill, including a proposal backed by conservative Republicans that would strip immigration language, and could be crucial to winning floor passage as the typically bipartisan legislation loses some high profile Democratic support.  

The panel approved in an 8-3 party-line vote a structured rule (H Res 260) for consideration of amendments to the bill (HR 1735), which will likely be debated Thursday on the House floor. General debate on the annual defense bill took place Wednesday, with no amendments considered.  

Back in BRAC: Advocates Say It's Been Too Long

Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, was trying again this week to persuade his colleagues that they should allow a round of military base closings and realignments in the interest of saving money.

Deal Reached to Soften Iran Bill's Terrorism Language

Leading lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appear to have reached a compromise to dilute some provisions of major Iran legislation ahead of this afternoon's markup.

GOP Senators Seek to Put Focus Back on VA Scandal

A group of Republican senators hopes to return attention to accountability issues at the Veterans' Affairs Department that have disappeared from the headlines.  

"The television cameras may have turned their focus elsewhere, but we will not," Kansas GOP Sen. Jerry Moran said in a statement Thursday announcing he's spearheading the Senate companion to a bill designed to give more power to the VA secretary to discipline senior executives engaged in improper practices.  

Schiff Named Top Democrat on Intelligence Panel

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that California Democrat Adam B. Schiff will be the next ranking member on the Intelligence Committee.  

“As a senior member of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Schiff has been a vital voice on the most pressing national security challenges of our time, including counter terrorism efforts and challenges in the Middle East," Pelosi said in a statement. "He has proven himself to be a capable leader and a proponent of surveillance reforms." Pelosi said Schiff who has previously served on the Foreign Affairs Committee, the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Committee and the Intelligence panel — had "impeccable national security credentials."  

VA Settles With Three Phoenix Whistle-Blowers

The Department of Veterans Affairs has reached settlements with three individuals who worked at the agency's medical center in Phoenix and complained that they were subjected to retaliation for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing.

Lawmakers Disagree on Discretionary Defense Cap

As is typical in the defense authorization process, House and Senate lawmakers made differing choices over key policy and military hardware issues. Both bills, however, would adhere to the $514 billion discretionary cap for fiscal 2015 Pentagon base spending established by the Ryan-Murray budget.

Defense Authorization Again Headed Toward Last-Minute Dealmaking

It was probably wishful thinking on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s part when he added floor action on the annual defense policy bill to his crowded to-do list for the abbreviated September session.