James M Inhofe

Impeachment strains longstanding bipartisan support for Ukraine
Consensus built on keeping Ukraine inside the Western European camp

President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy look on during a meeting at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 25. (Getty Images file photo)

The bipartisan backing for Ukraine in its long face-off with Russia has been a hallmark of Congress’ role in foreign policymaking for decades. Congress — both parties — has generally been willing to confront Moscow more forcefully over its treatment of Ukraine than the Trump, Obama or George W. Bush White Houses.

But with U.S. policy toward Ukraine the centerpiece of the impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump’s antipathy toward Kyiv out in the open, and Republicans not wanting to break with their GOP president publicly over Ukraine policy, concern is rising that this longstanding bipartisan consensus to keep Ukraine inside the Western European camp could erode.

‘Skinny’ defense bill omits key element: Military construction
Backup plan lacks details that could affect controversial border wall funding plan

Senate Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., intends his "skinny" bill to cover the bare minimum of a defense authorization. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman earlier this week filed a stripped-down defense authorization bill that he said contained the U.S. military’s must-pass provisions — a backup plan in case House and Senate conferees cannot agree on a full authorization measure in the next few weeks.

But the so-called skinny bill is missing one essential element: a detailed list of authorized military construction projects.

As NDAA talks drag on, Inhofe readies pared-down bill
Negotiators have largely stayed mum on unresolved conference issues

Senate Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe, left, and ranking member Sen. Jack Reed before the start of a confirmation hearing on July 31, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate panel backs special $1 billion military ‘readiness’ fund
Some experts are skeptical that the Defense Department will spend the funds effectively.

The new military readiness fund in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Defense spending bill would come with very few strings or stipulations attached. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images file photo)

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s new Defense spending bill would create a $1.1 billion fund for yet-to-be-determined programs that build military “readiness,” a word that has come to mean just about anything in the Pentagon budget.

The fund, created at a time when military preparedness levels are on the rise after nearly two decades at war, would come with very few strings or stipulations, an unusual move for appropriators who typically guard their power of the purse.

Senate biofuel advocates want a piece of transportation bill
The bill would set aside $1 billion to build charging and fueling stations for electric-, hydrogen- and natural gas-powered vehicles

Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., say incentives in the bill would only benefit wealthy people in coastal states while leaving out rural America. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A provision in the Senate’s surface transportation bill that would help pay for charging and refilling stations for zero- or low-emissions vehicles should also support more stations for biofuels like ethanol, say two Midwestern senators.

The bill would authorize spending on highways and bridge projects for five years. Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Mike Rounds of South Dakota say incentives in the bill would only benefit wealthy people in coastal states who can afford electric-, hydrogen- and natural gas-powered vehicles, while leaving out rural America.

Senate Armed Services sends Hyten nomination to floor despite sexual assault allegations
The committee’s endorsement comes one day after his confirmation hearing, when he defended himself against accusations

Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten was advanced by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Senate Floor.(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday advanced Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Senate floor amid some opposition from senators concerned about sexual assault allegations launched against the four-star.

The committee’s endorsement of Hyten on a 20-7 vote in a closed-door session comes one day after his confirmation hearing, during which he defended himself against accusations made made by a former subordinate, Army Col. Kathryn A. Spletstoser.

For Joint Chiefs nominee, a subdued hearing addressing contentious charges
John Hyten defends himself against sexual assault charges before Armed Services panel

Heather A. Wilson, former secretary of the Air Force, introduces Air Force Gen. John Hyten during his confirmation hearing to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday publicly defended himself against sexual assault allegations that have clouded his nomination, picking up support from key lawmakers as his accuser, an Army colonel, sat just feet away.

And although the accusations against him are part of a wider cultural issue that has filtered into the presidential campaign, two members of the committee running for president skipped the hearing — and a chance to question the nominee. 

Senate confirms four-star general, inches forward another despite sexual assault allegations
The Senate voted 89-1 to confirm Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives for his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building on July 11, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Thursday voted 89-1 to confirm Army Gen. Mark Milley to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just hours after the Armed Services Committee decided to move forward with Air Force Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to be the military’s No. 2 officer despite lingering questions about allegations of sexual assault.

The progress on the Joint Chiefs nominees comes as senators try to firm up leadership at the Pentagon, which has been in a state of transition for months.

Esper content with defense budget, calls for 'stable leadership'
Top jobs in the Pentagon remain unfilled or are being carried out by 'acting' officials

Mark Esper enters the top job at the Pentagon Tuesday as the new Secretary of Defense. Esper said the $738 billion allocated to the military for fiscal 2020, is a 'good number.' (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Newly minted Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper enters the top job at a moment of both relief and urgency for the Pentagon.

The relief came from an agreement this week between Congress and the White House to fund the military for the next two years at $738 billion in fiscal 2020 and $740.5 billion in 2021, numbers that defense hawks have said they can live with.

Norquist appears to be on fast track to become Pentagon’s No. 2
Senators from both sides of the aisle said they looked forward to voting for him

Norquist testifies earlier this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

David Norquist, President Donald Trump’s nominee for deputy Defense secretary, sailed through his confirmation hearing Wednesday, with senators from both sides of the aisle saying they looked forward to voting for him.

Norquist was confirmed by the Senate to be the Pentagon’s comptroller in 2017 and has been the acting deputy Defense secretary since January.