Daily on Defense: Defense bill fails again, shutdown looms, McCarthy’s job on the line, Zelensky rebuffed on ATACMS, new Milley-Trump anecdotes

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'WE'RE DYSFUNCTIONAL': House Republican lawmakers were told they might as well go home and enjoy a long weekend after failing for a third time to pass a defense appropriations bill that was supposed to set the stage for a Saturday vote on a stopgap continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown in eight days.

"We're dysfunctional," Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) told reporters outside the Capitol. "[It's] that simple. We are so dysfunctional. We've got nobody at the head …This train has left the station."

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) thought he had the votes, but the hardliners on his right flank, led by firebrand Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), killed the measure by voting against a routine procedure to bring the bill to the floor for consideration.

"It's frustrating in the sense that I don't understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate," McCarthy said after watching the bill go down in flames. "This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down. That doesn't work."

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS: With just a four-vote majority in the House, McCarthy is being whipsawed by a handful of the most extreme members of his party who are spoiling for a shutdown and threatening McCarthy with his job as speaker if he goes around them to get votes from Democrats to pass a CR.

"There will not be sufficient Republican votes for a continuing resolution," said Gaetz, McCarthy's chief antagonist. "Now, if we've got some of these moderate Republicans who want to go and join up with the Democrats, they will be signing their own political death warrant, and they will be handing it to their executioner."

"He thinks he can only pass this with Republican votes because he's afraid if he uses Democratic votes, he won't be speaker," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) on CNN. "He can be a spectator speaker, or he can be a leader, and a leader would go to Democrats, just as Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Schumer have done in the Senate, and say, 'Give us the votes to keep the government open.'"

SCHUMER'S POSSIBLE END RUN: Under the Constitution, appropriations measures are required to originate in the House, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is looking for a legislative workaround.

Yesterday, he announced on the Senate floor that he'd filed cloture on a bill already passed by the House reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, which could be amended to extend the government's spending authority temporarily.

"As I have said for months, we must work in a bipartisan fashion to keep our government open, avoid a shutdown, and avoid inflicting unnecessary pain on the American people," Schumer said in a statement. "This action will give the Senate the option to do just that."

"The way this will end, in all likelihood, is the Senate will pass a bill with over 70 votes that will fund the government, provide for some disaster assistance, and also provide for some Ukraine funding, and then they'll send it over to the U.S. House," former Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent suggested on CNN. "And then that's when the speaker has to make a decision. If he puts that bill on the floor, it will pass with a strong bipartisan majority, and of course, then, the hardliners who are torturing him right now, will then move to vacate."

McCarthy may be forced to choose between his speakership or an economic and politically costly shutdown. "You have Senate Republicans and Democrats united, House Democrats are aligned with the Senate and the president, and it is really just a handful of House Republicans who are going to cause this shutdown," Dent said. "And, of course, the Republican Party in the House will be blamed and it is not going to be very pretty."


Good Friday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre's Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Conrad Hoyt. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at DailyonDefense.com. If signing up doesn't work, shoot us an email and we'll add you to our list. And be sure to follow me on Threads and/or on X @jamiejmcintyre



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HAPPENING TODAY: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will welcome Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi to the Pentagon at 9:30 a.m. The meeting with the leader of the East African nation comes a day before Austin departs for a weeklong trip to Africa, in which he will visit Djibouti, Kenya, and Angola.

Austin will "underscore the United States' commitment to building and reinforcing security partnerships with African nations and to promote African-led initiatives and regional solutions to security issues," according to Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.

ZELENSKY CHANNELING LINCOLN: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was effusive in his thanks to the United States at every stop on his Washington tour yesterday, even as he received a less than warm reception from McCarthy, who refused his request to address a joint meeting of Congress or brief House lawmakers directly.

"This was a very important visit to Washington, D.C." Zelensky posted on social media. "My day began on Capitol Hill with candid and extensive discussions. Both chambers and parties. I sensed trust, which fosters unity. Members of Congress asked direct questions and received candid responses. Transparency is our top priority in our relations with the U.S."

Zelensky ended his day with a visit to the National Archives, where he was shown a telegram President Abraham Lincoln sent to Lt. Gen. Ulysses Grant in 1864. "I have seen your dispatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing," Lincoln wrote. "Hold on with a bulldog grip, and chew and choke, as much as possible."

"Lincoln's words reflect the courage that helped America. Such words reflect exactly how Ukrainians fight," Zelensky said. "Ukrainian soldiers hold on with a grip of a bulldog. They chew and choke the Russian occupiers as much as possible. Never before have the Russian dictatorship met such strong resistance, and never again will Russia manage to destroy any other nation."

ZELENSKY: 'IF WE DON'T GET THE AID, WE WILL LOSE THE WAR': But in private meetings with members of the Senate, Zelensky expressed concern about the growing resistance of some Republicans to continue funding the war effort for as long as it takes.

"Without Ukrainian aid, the damage that would occur on Ukraine's campaign would be devastating," said Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) after his time with Zelensky. "Nothing would make Putin happier right now than to see the United States waver in our support for the Ukrainian people … In fact, to quote President Zelensky in the room, and this is a quote, he said: 'If we don't get the aid, we will lose the war.' That's a quote from President Volodymyr Zelensky. That's how stark the issue is.

"At the risk of repeating myself, American support for Ukraine is not charity," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. "It's an investment in our own direct interests – not least because degrading Russia's military power helps to deter our primary strategic adversary, China."

The warnings came as six Republican senators and 22 House members sent a letter to the White House opposing the Biden administration's $24 billion request for supplemental aid to Ukraine through the end of the calendar year.

"Yesterday at a classified briefing over Ukraine, it became clear that America is being asked to fund an indefinite conflict with unlimited resources," Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) posted on X. "Enough is enough. To these and future requests, my colleagues and I say: NO."

ANOTHER $325 MILLION, BUT NO ATACMS: Zelensky was also rebuffed by the White House in his request for long-range ATACMS that he says Ukraine separately needs to maintain its momentum against Russian fortifications as fighting moves into the winter months.

The latest $350 million arms package, timed to coincide with Zelensky's visit to Washington, includes more air defense systems and missiles, artillery ammunition, anti-tank missiles, and mine-clearing equipment, but no ATACMS.

"There was a lot of analysis that went into what we thought we needed to help Ukraine for the first quarter of the fiscal year, basically the next three months. In the fall and towards the late fall, it's going to start getting tough there in terms of weather," NSC spokesman John Kirby said on CNN. Kirby did say the possibility of providing the long-range ATACMS remains on the table.

"It's wrong. It's just wrong," GOP Presidential candidate Chris Christie said in response. "What it does is it elongates the war. I mean, look, I think President Biden has to stop hand-wringing on this. He was hand-wringing on the Abrams tanks. He was hand-wringing on the F-16s, now on these ATACM missiles. Let's stop it. Let's give them what they need."

TWO MORE CHIEFS: With the Senate confirmation yesterday of Gen. Randy George to be Army chief of staff and Gen. Eric Smith as Marine Corps commandant, three of the five new members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are good to go. There are still two more waiting to be confirmed: Gen. David Allvin to be Air Force chief and Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be the next chief of naval operations.

MORE MILLEY ANECDOTES: An article published by the Atlantic, titled "The Patriot," includes new anecdotes from Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley's tumultuous time serving under President Donald Trump.

Milley has told friends that he expects that if Trump returns to the White House, the newly elected president will come after him. "He'll start throwing people in jail, and I'd be on the top of the list," according to the account written by Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg.

Goldberg reported that when Trump intervened in three different cases that had been working their way through the military justice system, Milley "found himself in a disconcerting situation: trying, and failing, to teach President Trump the difference between appropriate battlefield aggressiveness on the one hand, and war crimes on the other … In the most infamous case, the Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher had been found guilty of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State prisoner."

Trump called Gallagher a hero and said he didn't understand why he was being punished. "Because he slit the throat of a wounded prisoner," Milley said. "The guy was going to die anyway," Trump said. Milley answered, "Mr. President, we have military ethics and laws about what happens in battle. We can't do that kind of thing. It's a war crime." Trump answered that he didn't understand "the big deal." He went on, "You guys" — meaning combat soldiers — "are all just killers. What's the difference?"

In another anecdote, Goldberg said Milley had chosen a severely wounded Army captain, Luis Avila, to sing "God Bless America" at a welcome ceremony at Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall.

"It had rained that day, and the ground was soft; at one point Avila's wheelchair threatened to topple over. Milley's wife, Hollyanne, ran to help Avila, as did Vice President Mike Pence. After Avila's performance, Trump walked over to congratulate him, but then said to Milley, within earshot of several witnesses, 'Why do you bring people like that here? No one wants to see that, the wounded.' Never let Avila appear in public again, Trump told Milley.

Read my take on Milley's retirement here:


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Zelensky returns to Capitol Hill in plea for continued assistance amid funding fight

Washington Examiner: House GOP plots path forward on government spending deal: 'May get worse before it gets better'

Washington Examiner: Senate confirms new Army chief, bypassing Tuberville blockade

Washington Examiner: Senate confirms leader of Marines, the third nominee to escape Tuberville's blockade

Washington Examiner: Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley hangs up his uniform

Washington Examiner: GAO issues scathing report on Lockheed Martin's F-35 debacle

Washington Examiner: F-35 fighter aircraft are not mission-capable nearly 50% of the time

Washington Examiner: US trying to broker Israel-Saudi Arabia deal that Netanyahu seeks by early 2024

Washington Examiner: Russia bans diesel and gasoline exports, adding uncertainty to markets

Washington Examiner: With an eye on China, Biden caught in the middle in Canada-India tensions

Washington Examiner: State Department IT administrator indicted on charges of leaking intelligence reports to foreign spy

Washington Examiner: Greg Abbott sends in Texas National Guard to assist with 'invasion' at border

Washington Examiner: Ramaswamy confirms father is not a US citizen as he reveals immigration policy

Washington Examiner: NASA monitoring asteroid that could 'impact' Earth

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Why is Volodymyr Zelensky trying to alienate Ukraine's allies?

Politico: Pentagon Exempts Ukraine Operations from Potential Government Shutdown

Forbes: Looming Budget Cuts Could Devastate Air Force, Undermine Deterrence

Washington Post: China has scooped up human DNA from nations around the world, spurring fears of a genetic arms race

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Next-Gen Fighter Engines

Air & Space Forces Magazine: New Report: 'Critical Time' for Pentagon to Chart the Future of F-35 Sustainment

The War Zone: F-35A Has Flown from a Highway for the First Time

Breaking Defense: Space Industry Shakeups: Aerospace Consolidates, Maxar Breaks Up

Space News: True Anomaly Gets $17 Million Space Force Contract for Space Domain Awareness Software

Defense One: Ransomware Gang Targeting Defense Firms, FBI Warns

Air & Space Forces Magazine: KC-135 Tanker Autopilot Now Safer to Use in Flight, Air Force Says



9 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Wilson Center's Global Europe Program discussion: "The U.K. Labour Party's Foreign and Defense Priorities," with U.K. Shadow Secretary of State for Defense John Healey; and U.K. Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs David Lammy https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/uk-labour-partys-foreign-and-defense-priorities

12 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute discussion: "The Evolving Relationship between Europe and the Indo-Pacific," with Eva Maydell, member of European Parliament and vice chairwoman of the Delegation on Japan Relations; and Kenneth Weinstein, Japan chairman, Hudson Institute https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-evolving-relationship-between-europe-and-the-indo-pacific


10 a.m. — American Enterprise Institute discussion: "The State of US Counterterrorism Efforts and Diplomacy," with Gregory LoGerfo, deputy coordinator for counterterrorism, U.S. State Department; and Katherine Zimmerman, fellow, AEI https://www.aei.org/events/a-conversation-with-us-deputy-coordinator-for-counterterrorism


12 p.m. 616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Center for Strategic and International Studies International Security Program and U.S. Naval Institute for a Maritime Security Dialogue in-person and virtual discussion: "Strengthening the U.S. Industrial Base," with William LaPlante, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment; Seth Jones, CSIS senior vice president and director of the International Security Program; and retired Vice Adm. Peter Daly, CEO and publisher, U.S. Naval Institute https://www.csis.org/events/strengthening-us-industrial-base-hon-dr-william-laplante


9 p.m. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California — The Republican National Committee hosts the second presidential primary debate, hosted by Fox Business


9:30 a.m. — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to consider nominations of Derek Chollet to be undersecretary of defense for policy; and Cara Abercrombie to be assistant secretary of defense for acquisition https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings


10 a.m. Summerall Field, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia — Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of retiring Army Gen. Mark Milley, 20th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff https://www.defense.gov/News/Live-Events


"If we don't get the aid, we will lose the war."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a closed-door briefing with U.S. senators on Capitol Hill Thursday.
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