Daily on Defense: Tuberville forces Schumer’s hand, Zelensky storms Washington, ATACMS on the table, Assad in China

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BY JAMIE MCINTYRE

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SCHUMER: 'THIS CANNOT CONTINUE': Just ten days before he needs to take over as the nation's top military officer, Air Force chief of staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown was confirmed by the Senate Wednesday on a bipartisan 83-11 vote.

The vote came after some legislative jockeying, in which Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) forced Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to do something he had vowed not to do: begin to take up some of the blocked nominations one by one to get around the blanket hold Tuberville has placed on more than 300 military promotions. Schumer has scheduled votes on two more members of the Joint Chiefs for today, Army Gen. Randy George and Marine Gen. Eric Smith.

But in a fiery speech on the Senate floor, Schumer said voting on each nomination individually is not sustainable and can't continue. "Senator Tuberville is essentially trying to make himself the gatekeeper of which officers are promoted and who sits and waits," Schumer said. "Instead of just getting out of the way and allowing the Senate to approve the promotions that these decorated military officers deserve, the senator from Alabama, unfortunately and wrongly, is using them as pawns."

A Congressional Research Service memo issued last week estimated it would take the Senate approximately 689 hours to individually process all pending military promotions. "It will hamstring the Senate and further bog down this body and make it harder for us to legislate," Schumer said. "It will make every single military officer's promotion subject to the political whims of the Senate and even of one senator. It will change the nature of our non-political military."

"I want to make clear to my Republican colleagues, this cannot continue," Schumer said. "It's not the path the vast majority of senators on either side of the aisle want to go down, but Senator Tuberville is forcing us to confront his obstruction head-on."

TUBERVILLE STALEMATE THAWS: SENATE CONFIRMS JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN CAUGHT IN PENTAGON BLOCKADE

TUBERVILLE: 'I STILL HAVE MY HOLDS': Tuberville remains unmoved and unrepentant. "When we started this, I told Democrats, 'Listen, I am not changing my mind. You are running into someone here who will stand up for the rule of law,'" Tuberville told a Birmingham, Alabama, TV station. "We could have been doing these every week for the last 30-40 weeks and had most of the people done. They didn't want to do that."

Tuberville forced the issue yesterday when he began a move to invoke an arcane Senate rule to force a vote on Marine Corps nominee Smith, which would have seized the initiative from Schumer, who said it showed Tuberville is "desperate to get out of the box he has put himself in."

"We finally came to a little bit of a conclusion, but it's about time. We should have done these a long time ago, but we're making progress," Tuberville told reporters after Brown was confirmed. "Again, I still have my holds, and we'll continue to do that."

Tuberville said he may still seek to force votes on other individual nominations. "We might bring some more up ourselves, you know, through our petition," he said, "But I'm glad we're making some progress."

REED: HOLDS ARE AN 'ABSURD, DISHONEST POLITICAL STUNT': In a statement yesterday, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, accused Tuberville of what he called an "absurd, dishonest political stunt," and said that Schumer had "outmaneuvered" him in bringing three top officers to the floor for a vote.

"To be clear, Senate Democrats have no problem with voting on the most senior military officers, as we have done in the past," Reed said. "We are disturbed, however, by Republicans' interest in voting exclusively on a few select officers while hundreds of other officers and their families are punished."

"I am glad we will get three key military posts filled, but hundreds more merit-based promotions are still frozen," Reed said. "Instead of one-off attempts to maneuver around his own partisan blockade, Senator Tuberville should immediately allow consideration of all military promotions."

In the statement emailed to reporters, Reed's office called Tuberville's argument that the Pentagon's policy funding travel to obtain an abortion is illegal a "fact-free claim."

"Nothing could be further from the truth," the statement said. "The best proof is that not a single lawsuit has been filed that claims DOD's policy is illegal. This is even more striking when one considers just how conservative Alabama, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court are."

VOTE ON TOP MILITARY LEADERS 'DOESN'T SOLVE THE LARGER PROBLEM,' WHITE HOUSE SAYS

Good Thursday 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: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will be mounting a full-scale effort to secure more weapons and commitments during his whirlwind one-day visit to Washington.

He's scheduled to start his day on Capitol Hill, where Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has arranged an all-Senate meeting at 10 a.m. From there, Zelensky will be whisked across the Potomac for an 11 a.m. meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon. And at 3 p.m., Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska, will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House.

At the Pentagon, Zelensky and his new defense minister, Rustem Umerov, will meet with Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and other military leaders.

The White House has timed another announcement of additional weapons and ammunition for Ukraine's war effort worth several hundred million dollars, but it won't include the long-range ATACMS that Zelensky is seeking to hit Russian targets in Crimea.

"As the president has said, ATACMS are not off the table," NSC spokesman John Kirby told ABC News yesterday. "We continue to have discussions here in the interagency about that particular weapon system, but no decision has been made."

ZELENSKY RETURNS TO WASHINGTON IN NEED OF AID UNDER A SHUTDOWN SHADOW

MCCARTHY: 'IS ZELENSKY ELECTED TO CONGRESS?': House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) plans to meet with Zelensky privately but decided against arranging a session with House members, which would include far-right opponents of any additional aid to Ukraine.

"Is Zelensky elected to Congress? Is he our president? I don't think I have to commit anything, and I think I have questions for him," McCarthy told reporters yesterday. "Where's the accountability on the money we've already spent? What is the plan for victory? I think that's what the American public wants to know."

Resistance in the lower chamber to continue funding and supplying Ukraine's war effort is growing, with members like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) vowing to vote against any budget bill that includes funds for Ukraine. "When I say stop sending money to Ukraine, I mean it."

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN COULD AFFECT WEAPONS TRANSFERS AND TRAINING FOR UKRAINE

ASSAD IN CHINA: Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived in China today for meetings with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese officials. It's Assad's first visit to China since 2004.

The visit reflects Assad's "increasing rehabilitation on the international stage," wrote David Adesnik, a Syria scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "This is a summit of butchers," he said. "Yet once the Arab League rehabilitated Assad, it's not surprising to see other dictators welcome him. The real question is whether the United States and its allies will stand firm on Syria policy."

"In May, Assad traveled to Saudi Arabia for an Arab summit; in March, Assad visited the United Arab Emirates; in February, Assad visited Oman," noted Adesnik.

"China has increasingly become a power broker in the Middle East. In March, Beijing brokered a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Meanwhile, Iran's oil exports to China have increased dramatically, partly as a result of the Biden administration's deliberately lax enforcement of U.S. sanctions," the FDD brief said.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Tuberville stalemate thaws: Senate confirms Joint Chiefs chairman caught in Pentagon blockade

Washington Examiner: Vote on top military leaders 'doesn't solve the larger problem,' White House says

Washington Examiner: Government shutdown could affect weapons transfers and training for Ukraine

Washington Examiner: Zelensky returns to Washington in need of aid under a shutdown shadow

Washington Examiner: Bipartisan lawmakers introduce resolution to use frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine

Washington Examiner: Hawley says Ukraine aid has no 'end game': 'What about our nation?'

Washington Examiner: US officials 'strangling' strategic partnership, Australia warns

Washington Examiner: Saudi Arabia needs a nuclear weapon if Iran gets one, crown prince says

Washington Examiner: Pentagon announces eight microelectronics hubs across US to bolster chip industry

Washington Examiner: LGBT veterans discharged under 'don't ask, don't tell' to get extra Pentagon resources

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Fix, don't defund, the FBI

AP: Inside a Ukrainian brigade's battle 'through hell' to reclaim a village on the way to Bakhmut

Washington Post: Zelensky Tars U.N. As Timid On War

AP: Top US Air Force Official in Mideast Worried over Possible Russia-Iran 'Cooperation and Collusion'

Reuters: Bigger, Heavier, Faster: China Rolls Out Military Upgrades

AP: Azerbaijan claims full control over the Nagorno-Karabakh region as Armenian forces agree to disarm

Wall Street Journal: In Blow to Russia, Armenian Separatists Capitulate in Nagorno-Karabakh

Defense One: Air Force General Defends Incendiary Memo But Says 'War Is Not Inevitable'

Breaking Defense: Space Force Looking to Fill Tech 'Gaps,' and 'Evolve' Space Domain Awareness: Saltzman

Defense News: Australia to Focus R&D on Asymmetric Warfighting, Chief Scientist Says

Breaking Defense: Lockheed in 'Late Stage Negotiations' with Unnamed Solid Rocket Motor Supplier: CEO

Air & Space Forces Magazine: F-16s, AC-130, and More Exercise over Remote Alaskan Regions

Military Times: Medical Care, Child Care: How Shutdown Could Affect Military Families

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Do Airmen Enjoy Their Dorms? Air Force Has No Systematic Way To Find Out

The War Zone: A-10 Pilot's Compelling Case for Replacing Warthogs with Super Hornets

The Cipher Brief: On the U.S. Radar: The Rise of China-Backed Cyberattacks

The Cipher Brief: Financial Sector Cybersecurity is National Security

Calendar

THURSDAY | SEPTEMBER 21

8 a.m. 7920 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, Virginia — Potomac Officers Club annual Intel Summit, with Stacey Dixon, principal deputy director of national intelligence; and Vice Adm. Frank Whitworth, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency https://potomacofficersclub.com/events/poc-2023-9th-annual-intel-summit

8:30 a.m. New York, N.Y. — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg participates in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations with former Democratic California Rep. Jane Harman, chairwoman, Commission on the National Defense Strategy and chairwoman, Board of Trustees, Freedom House https://www.cfr.org/event/russell-c-leffingwell-lecture 

9 a.m. 2154 Rayburn — House Oversight and Accountability Committee briefing: "NASA's Independent Study Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs)" https://oversight.house.gov/hearing/

9 a.m. — Brookings Institution virtual discussion: "The Legacy and Future of the Wagner Group," with Kimberly Marten, professor of political science at Barnard College; Wassim Nasr, senior research fellow at the Soufan Center; and Candace Rondeaux, professor of practice at Arizona State University https://www.brookings.edu/events/the-legacy-and-future-of-the-wagner-group

POSTPONED, RESCHEDULED TO SEPTEMBER 28: 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

12 p.m. — National Security Institute at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University book discussion of Beijing Rules: How China Weaponized Its Economy to Confront the World, with author Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Axios China reporter; and Jessica Jones, deputy executive director, National Security Institute https://nationalsecurity.gmu.edu/book-event-beijing-rules

12 p.m. 2043 Rayburn — Cato Institute briefing: "Why U.S. Efforts at Defense Burdensharing Fail," with Justin Logan, director of defense and foreign policy studies at Cato and author of Uncle Sucker: Why U.S. Efforts at Defense Burdensharing Fail; and Lawrence Montreuil, director of government affairs at Cato https://www.cato.org/events/why-us-efforts-defense-burdensharing-fail

FRIDAY | SEPTEMBER 22

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

MONDAY | SEPTEMBER 25

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

TUESDAY | SEPTEMBER 26

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

WEDNESDAY | SEPTEMBER 27

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

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QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I'll join colleagues in welcoming President Zelensky to the Capitol. And I'll continue to make the case, myself, for sustained support of the Ukrainian cause – not out of charity, but out of primary focus on America's interests."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaking on the floor of the Senate Wednesday.
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