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Overnight Defense: House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers | Pentagon leaders press senators to reimburse National Guard | New pressure on US-Iran nuclear talks

The Hill
The Hill
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Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, 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 House on Thursday voted to repeal the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War in what lawmakers are framing as a first step in a broader effort to claw back presidential war powers.

The House voted largely along party lines, 268-161, to scrap the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF), with supporters of the repeal arguing the nearly 20-year-old law is outdated and no longer necessary.

Only one Democrat, Rep. Elaine Luria (Va.), voted against scrapping the authorization, while 49 GOP lawmakers did vote to repeal it.

Background: The war authorization was initially passed by Congress to allow the U.S military to go after former President Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, though it has occasionally been used to bolster the legal rationale for other military engagements in recent years.

The House previously voted to repeal the 2002 AUMF last congressional session, but the effort went nowhere in the Senate, which at the time was controlled by Republicans.

The argument for repeal: “Repeal can prevent our country from entering another protected protracted engagement under this outdated authority,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the repeal bill, said Thursday. “We can't afford to leave this in place indefinitely. For two decades, it has been in place. This is our opportunity to restore our constitutional role.”

Mounting support: On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his support for repealing the 2002 AUMF and vowed to hold a vote in his chamber this year.

The Biden administration has also come out in support of repealing the 2002 AUMF, with the White House saying in a statement this week it backs Lee’s bill because “the United States has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations.”

Read the full story here.


Failure to reimburse the National Guard for its months-long deployment protecting the Capitol would be detrimental to the guard's readiness, top Pentagon leaders warned Thursday.

“It will impact their ability in the near term to be able to train and adequately prepare the guard for its future, for its current responsibilities,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Appropriations Committee when asked what the effects will be if Congress does not approve funding before its August recess.

Testifying alongside Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley added that a lack of reimbursement for the guard will have a “significant negative impact on their ability to maintain their readiness.”

Deployment details: Thousands of National Guardsmen from around the country deployed to Washington, D.C., for nearly five months to shore up security at the Capitol after the Jan. 6 insurrection by supporters of former President Trump .

At the height of the deployment, nearly 26,000 guardsmen were deployed to the nation’s capital from all 50 states, three territories and D.C. That dropped to 2,300 troops in March before all remaining guardsmen went home in May.

The cost of the deployment was estimated at $521 million.

A disconnect: A House-passed bill to bolster Capitol security included funding to reimburse the guard for the deployment.

But the Senate is still crafting its own version of a Capitol security bill, so the guard has yet to be reimbursed for the deployment.

Other stresses: In addition to the Capitol deployment, the National Guard has been stretched thin over the last year helping during the COVD-19 pandemic, including by administering tests and vaccines.

Guardsmen were also deployed around the country to help local law enforcement respond to civil unrest, to assist after hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters, and to bolster cyber defenses and local poll workers during last year’s elections.

More coverage of the hearing:

-- Pentagon leaders see 'medium' risk of terrorists regrouping in Afghanistan

-- Top US general: Chinese military has 'ways to go' before it can take Taiwan

-- Milley downplays report of 1,900 lost or stolen military firearms


The outcome of Iran's presidential election on Friday is likely to pose a significant challenge for the U.S. as it pushes Tehran to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal.

The Biden administration is intent on bringing the U.S. back into the Obama-era deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that former President Trump exited in 2018.

U.S. officials have stressed that weeks of indirect talks with Iran in Vienna are proving productive and meaningful, but Iran’s presidential contest has loomed over the discussions.

It's complicated: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said last week that the presidential elections have “complicated” a lot of progress on reaching an agreement.

“We’ll see where everything goes,” she said during an event with the German Marshall Fund.

Read the full story here.


The Hudson Institute will hold a virtual discussion on "The Future of America's Defense Industrial Base," with former Undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment Ellen Lord; and former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for industrial policy Jeffrey "Jeb" Nadaner, at 12 p.m.


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