James M Inhofe

Esper, Milley nominations head to floor; Hyten‘s fate unclear
McConnell lined up Monday cloture vote, which Esper is expected to clear easily, and a final confirmation vote by Wednesday

Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper prepares to testify during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday advanced to the floor the nominations for Mark Esper to be Defense secretary and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promptly filed cloture on the nomination, lining up a Monday cloture vote, which Esper is expected to clear easily, and a final confirmation vote by Wednesday.

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.

Esper approval likely, but sexual assault allegations slow Joint Chiefs vice chair pick
Kirsten Gillibrand told CQ Roll Call that she would not support even giving Hyten a vote

The Senate Armed Services committee is expected on Thursday to approve Secretary of the Army and Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper as the next Pentagon chief. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 7:05 p.m. | 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.

Esper on path for quick confirmation despite Raytheon ties
The former lobbyist stressed Tuesday that his undivided loyalties are to serving the country and the military

Chairman 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 Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mark Esper, President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next Defense secretary, defended his work as a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon during his confirmation hearing Tuesday, stressing that his undivided loyalties are to serving the country and the military.

During an otherwise uncontentious hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, sparred with Esper on his ties to the Massachusetts-based defense giant and implored the nominee to recuse himself from any decisions affecting the firm, which he declined to do.

House approves NDAA with no Republican votes
Progressive amendments helped Dems earn votes from the party’s more dovish members in the face of Republican opposition

Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., talks with ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, right, before a House Armed Services Committee markup in Rayburn Building on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House on Friday approved its defense authorization bill after adopting a slew of progressive amendments that helped Democrats earn votes from the party’s more dovish members in the face of Republican opposition.

The final vote on the fiscal 2020 bill was 220-197. No Republicans supported the typically bipartisan measure that traditionally has earned more than 300 of the 435 available House votes.

Confirmation hearing planned Tuesday for Trump’s Defense secretary pick
The hearing has been scheduled, even though the panel is still waiting to receive his official nomination from the White House

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff, testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing March 26, 2019. Esper is expected to go before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday for a hearing on his confirmation to be the next Defense Secretary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee intends to hold a confirmation hearing for Mark Esper, the president’s pick to be the next Defense secretary, on Tuesday even though the panel is still waiting to receive his official nomination from the White House. 

The committee cannot hold Esper’s hearing until the White House delivers his formal nomination paperwork, but have tentatively planned the hearing anyway believing they will soon receive the nomination.

Congress returns to pressure to get spending deals done
Key to budget deal is agreement between Pelosi and Trump, GOP senator says

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby had hoped to start marking up fiscal 2020 spending bills after the July Fourth recess, but that looks unlikely now. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With only a month to go before the August recess and three months until the end of the fiscal year, House leaders will not bring the two remaining fiscal 2020 appropriations bills — Homeland Security and Legislative Branch — to the floor due to divisions within the Democratic caucus over those bills and diminishing floor time.

Some Democrats are opposed to an inflation adjustment to lawmaker salaries, as allowed in the Legislative Branch bill. Other Democrats are opposed to immigration and border funding provisions in the Homeland Security bill.

Both parties scored political points in war powers debate
Senate debate was feisty, fierce and principled — and transparently tailored for partisan effect

An amendment offered by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., spiced up debate on the annual Defense bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

ANALYSIS — The Senate’s debate last week on presidential war powers was substantive, serious and passionate — with the added benefit of enabling each party to score some political points.

The debate pertained to whether and how to hem in President Donald Trump’s authority to attack Iran amid heightened tensions in the Middle East that spiked this month when Iran shot down a U.S. drone and Trump pulled up just short of launching a counterattack.

Unorthodox Senate deal clears path for Thursday NDAA vote
Democrats had threatened to filibuster the defense bill unless the Iran amendment received a vote on Friday

From left, Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, conduct a news conference in the Capitol after the Senate Policy luncheons on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. As part of a compromise on the NDAA, McConnell said Wednesday he would allow a vote on language blocking President Donald Trump from launching a war against Iran without congressional approval. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate leaders struck an unusual deal Wednesday afternoon to hold a vote on language that would block President Donald Trump from launching a war against Iran without congressional approval, paving the way for a final vote on the massive Pentagon policy measure on Thursday.

But the vote on the Iran amendment will happen on Friday, to accommodate Senate Democrats participating in presidential debates this week, a GOP aide said. If the chamber adopts the language, which has the support of at least two Republican senators, it would then be retroactively included in the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill.

Senate NDAA sets a plutonium target experts deem a ‘fantasy’
CBO: Proposal by Senate to surge production of key building blocks for new nuclear arms would cost about $17 billion over a decade

The entrance to Technical Area 18 of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which houses several tons of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in Los Alamos, New Mexico. New programs proposed by the Senate to surge production of key building blocks for new nuclear arms would add a total of about $17 billion over a decade. (Neil Jacobs/Getty Images)

The Senate is poised to approve legislation Thursday that would codify a plan to spend billions of dollars to surge production of key building blocks for new nuclear arms.

The hawkish Senate’s coming move to set a new and more solid requirement for building plutonium cores for atomic weapons is buried deep inside its $750 billion fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill.