Daily on Defense: Border bill dying in Senate, Mayorkas impeachment vote set, Pentagon gives BDA on Friday strikes, Houthis retain capability to strike ships

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BY JAMIE MCINTYRE

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DYING A SLOW, PAINFUL DEATH: "Now [is] time for Congress to take action on supplemental national security legislation," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the Senate floor yesterday. "The time has finally come for the Senate to respond with strength. … Make no mistake: The gauntlet has been thrown. And America needs to pick it up."

But hours later last night, McConnell told a closed-door meeting of Senate Republicans to vote "no" on tomorrow's procedural vote to advance the $118 national defense supplemental, which includes a compromise deal that he previously characterized as "the most substantial border security policy in 30 years."

McConnell's about-face came as it became unclear if there are enough Republicans willing to defy former President Donald Trump's demand that the carefully negotiated border compromise bill be killed, along with $60 billion for Ukraine.

Republicans who are on the fence, such as Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), argue they need more time to review the bill. "I haven't made my way all through this," he said after the closed-door meeting. "Earlier there were some comments made that if this makes incrementally a better situation for Texas and for the country, that's something I think I should consider."

Senate GOP Whip John Thune (R-SD) indicated Republicans would block the bill if the Wednesday vote goes forward. "I think there's a very real concern that there hasn't been adequate time," he told CNN. "I think the Wednesday vote for most of our members is too early." 

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) spent much of the day on cable TV news shows defending the compromise he hammered out with the Democrats, complaining on CNN about critics who say because they can't get everything, they shouldn't do anything.

"What I hear on it is people say the right number is zero and if we can't get to zero, then I don't want to do anything on it," Lankford said on Fox News. "And, to me, if we can change it from having a million people crossing to 200,000 people crossing, that's a huge difference."

SENATE REPUBLICANS WEIGH TANKING WEDNESDAY BORDER DEAL VOTE

TRUMP'S THREAT: 'IT PROBABLY WOULD MEAN THE END OF THEIR CAREER': Trump has sharpened his criticism of Lankford, falsely stating he never endorsed him and questioning why he or any Republican would support the border deal, which he called "one of the dumbest bills I've ever seen."

"It's hard to believe because I think it probably would mean the end of their career," Trump said in an interview on Newsmax. "This is a Democrat trap. It's a trap for Republicans that would be so stupid, so foolish to sign a bill like this. This bill can't be signed."

"We had the safest border in history, the history of our country. We had the safest border. Now we have, I believe, the worst border in the history of the world. There's never been a border like this — ever," Trump said. "I went to Mexico and negotiated with Mexico. They gave us 28,000 troops. They gave us a lot of other things. Stay in Mexico. … We called it 'Remain in Mexico.' They gave us that. This bill doesn't have anything about Remain in Mexico."

Lankford said he hasn't spoken to Trump and apparently doesn't plan to. "Obviously, he's got a campaign that he's running. He's focused in on trying to be elected president," he said on Fox News. "Again, my focus is a national security focus. I'm the ranking member on border management for homeland security. That's my main focus, is to get that. We have a wide-open border, and we have got to find a way to be able to stop it."

LANKFORD DEFENDS BORDER BILL OVER GOP BACKLASH: 'READ IT FOR YOURSELF'

HALEY: 'THEY NEED TO FIGURE THIS OUT': Trump's only remaining challenger, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, said in an appearance on Fox News that she has mixed feelings about the border deal, but she's clear about one thing.

"You can't have Trump sitting there saying, don't do anything until the election," Haley said. "We have a completely open border. We need congressional members to stay in D.C. and not leave until they figure this out."

"And, no, we are not waiting until the general election to do this. And it's irresponsible to say that Congress has to wait until a general election because Trump is worried that he's going to lose," Haley told Fox News's Neil Cavuto. "There's a lot of reasons we got to worry Trump's going to lose, but you don't sacrifice national security to do it."

"Everybody's tired of a do-nothing Congress. I mean, can they do anything? Because we have seen nothing out of Republicans or Democrats. They have an inability to get anything done."

"The $64,000 question now is whether or not senators can drown out the outside noise, drown out people like Donald Trump who want chaos, and do the right thing for America," Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the Senate floor Monday. "I urge senators of goodwill on both sides of the aisle to do the right thing and tune the chaos out. History is going to look over our shoulders and ask if the Senate rose to the occasion. We must — we must — act."

HALEY DEBUTS NEW IMMIGRATION ATTACK ON TRUMP FOR ONCE DONATING TO KAMALA

Good Tuesday 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 Stacey Dec. 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: We'll find out today whether Republicans in the House have the votes to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for allegedly failing to enforce the immigration laws at the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

"Very clearly Secretary Mayorkas has picked and chosen which laws he's going to enforce," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-TN) said during a hearing yesterday that teed up today's vote. "If he was a Republican, I'd be doing the exact same thing."

The 12-member panel voted along party lines 8-4 after four hours of debate. The articles charge Mayorkas with willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and "a breach of the public trust."

The vote is largely symbolic because there is virtually no chance the Senate will vote to convict and remove Mayorkas from his job, so if the measure passes, it will amount to a vote of no confidence with little practical effect.

"You should be ashamed of yourself for bringing this kind of trash before this committee," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), the committee's top Democrat, calling the impeachment vote "one of the most pathetic, embarrassing things that this committee has ever done."

MAYORKAS IMPEACHMENT ARTICLES HEADED FOR FLOOR VOTE

BATTLE DAMAGE ASSESSMENT: The Pentagon yesterday offered its first battle damage assessment for the Friday strikes against Iranian-linked targets in Iraq and Syria. 

"Although we continue to evaluate, we currently assess that we had good effects and that the strikes destroyed or functionally damaged more than 80 targets at the seven facilities. The number of casualties is still being assessed," Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said at a briefing Monday.

The attacks were carried out in response to the Jan. 28 drone strike by an Iranian-backed militia that killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded at least 40 others.

"This is the start of our response, and there will be additional actions taken to hold the IRGC and affiliated militias accountable for their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces," Ryder said, without specifying whether the "additional actions" would involve the use of military force.

"We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else, but attacks on American forces will not be tolerated, and we will continue to take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our forces, and our interests," he said.

Since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas that killed 1,200 people in Israel, Iranian-backed groups have carried out more than 160 drone, rocket, and missile attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan.

"If our forces are threatened, we'll take appropriate action. But to be clear, our goal is not to 'OK, game on. Let's just do this and go, you know, full-scale war against Iranian proxy groups in Iraq and Syria,'" Ryder said. "That's not what we're there for. We're there to conduct the mission in support of the defeat of ISIS."

MIDDLE EAST MIRAGE: US'S MUDDLED IRAN STRATEGY UNDER THE MICROSCOPE AS CONFLICT LOOMS

HOUTHI STRIKES CONTINUE: The U.S. Central Command conducted another preemptive "self-defense" strike against what was described as two "Houthi explosive uncrewed surface vehicles," in other words seaborne drones.

"U.S. forces identified the explosive USVs in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region," CENTCOM said in a news release.

"Our focus when it comes to striking Houthi targets is to disrupt and degrade their capabilities. We don't seek an escalation with the Houthis. We're not at war with the Houthis," Ryder said. "If they continue the attacks, we will continue to disrupt and degrade their capabilities."

On Saturday, the U.S. and United Kingdom struck 36 targets in 13 locations across the Houthi-controlled part of Yemen. The targets included "deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defense systems and radars, all capabilities Houthi militia have used to attack international merchant and naval vessels in the region," Ryder said.

"So they have capability. It would not be surprising to anyone if they attempt to conduct attacks in the future. But when they do again, we'll take appropriate action."

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

THE RUNDOWN: 

Washington Examiner: Senate Republicans weigh tanking Wednesday border deal vote

Washington Examiner: Johnson tells Schumer he 'isn't listening': Border security is priority, not immigration 

Washington Examiner: Lankford defends border bill over GOP backlash: 'Read it for yourself'

Washington Examiner: House GOP leaders slam Senate's bipartisan border bill as 'waste of time'

Washington Examiner: Senate GOP staffers come to verbal blows in heated meeting on border deal

Washington Examiner: Jeffries blasts House GOP for stalling border legislation: 'Wholly owned subsidiaries of Donald Trump'

Washington Examiner: Biden vows to veto House's stand-alone Israel aid bill

Washington Examiner: UN chief appoints group for independent external review of UNRWA

Washington Examiner: Mayorkas impeachment articles headed for floor vote after Rules Committee votes to advance

Washington Examiner: Opinion: King Charles III shows Lloyd Austin how to lead

Washington Examiner: US gives no answer on relocations, compensation for drone strike victims' family

New York Times: Zelensky Plans A Major 'Reset' In Leadership

CNN: A Ukrainian Pilot Outlines How Drones Powered By Jet Skis Sunk A Russian Warship

Wall Street Journal: Iran-Tied Groups Target More U.S. Bases

AP: Blinken seeks progress on Gaza cease-fire-for-hostages deal in meetings with Egyptian mediators

Washington Post: Blinken Arrives In Saudi Arabia Amid A Surge In Regional Violence

AP: Border bill supporters combat misleading claims that it would let in more migrants

The War Zone: Ukraine Says It's Getting Long-Range Strike Missiles with Its F-16s

Wall Street Journal: Midair Fires and Malfunctions Surge on Russia's Planes as Sanctions Bite

Stars and Stripes: China Steps Up Warnings To Japanese Military Aircraft Near Disputed Senkaku Islands 

Air Force Times: DC Guard F-16s Deploy to Middle East as Airstrikes Continue

USNI News: U.K. Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth Sidelined, European Carriers Head For Pacific

Marine Corps Times: The Marines Are Retaining Women At Significantly Higher Rates Than Men

Air & Space Forces Magazine: New NORTHCOM, NORAD Boss Pledges 'Relentless' Homeland Defense

Air & Space Forces Magazine: First Phase of Taiwan F-16V Program Is Complete

DefenseScoop: Limited Test Infrastructure, Data Shortages Plague Air Force Hypersonics Program

Breaking Defense: Boeing's T-7A Trainer Faces New Delivery Delay amid Parts 'Challenges'

Air & Space Forces Magazine: When It Comes to Refueling Satellites, Space Force Faces Hard Choices

Breaking Defense: China's Investing Billions in Quantum R&D, But Is Beijing Making Some Bad Bets?

Aviation Week: BAE Systems Advances Uncrewed Collaborative Platform Design

The Cipher Brief: E-Commerce Lessons for Espionage 

The Cipher Brief: China's President has Power Over Kim Jong Un. Will he Use it for Denuclearization? 

The Cipher Brief: From the Battlefield to Your Backyard: The Looming Drone Threat in America

Defense News: Here's how to help solve Ukraine's drone shortage problem

The Hill: Opinion: With the US looking elsewhere, Uzbekistan and China quietly cement a regional alliance 

Forbes: Opinion: Boeing Products Bulk Large In Latest Foreign Military Sales Report

THE CALENDAR: 

TUESDAY | FEBRUARY 6

7:30 a.m. — Association of the U.S. Army "Coffee Series," with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George https://www.ausa.org/events/coffee-series/gen-george

9 a.m. — Washington Post Live virtual discussion: beginning at 9 a.m., on "The Global Race to Develop and Regulate Artificial Intelligence," with Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY); Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA); Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology; and Linda Moore, president and CEO of TechNet https://www.youtube.com/c/WashingtonPostLive

11:30 a.m. — Middle East Institute virtual conference: "The Houthis, Iran, and Red Sea Security," with State Department Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register

2 p.m. 2212 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee Quality of Life Panel: "Member Day," to provide an opportunity to hear from members of Congress on their perspectives regarding military quality-of-life issues https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings/quality-life-panel-member-day

WEDNESDAY | FEBRUARY 7 

8 a.m. 4301 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia — Intelligence and National Security Alliance discussion: "Zero Trust with Zero Budget," with Gurpreet Bhatia, principal director for cybersecurity at the Defense Department; Alexis Bonnell, chief information officer at the Air Force Research Laboratory; Neal Ziring, technical director of the National Security Agency's Cybersecurity Directorate; Steve Orrin, chairman of Intel Corporation's Cyber Council; and John Doyon, INSA executive vice president https://www.insaonline.org/detail-pages/event

9 a.m. 2212 Rayburn — House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee: "State of DoD Housing and Aging Infrastructure," with testimony from Brendan Owens, assistant secretary of defense for installations, energy, and environment; Rachel Jacobson, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and environment; Meredith Berger, assistant secretary of the Navy for installations, energy, and environment; and Ravi Chaudhary, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, energy, and environment https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings/readiness-subcommittee-state-dod-housing-and-aging-infrastructure

10 a.m. — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace virtual discussion: "Political Violence in America," with Mary McCord, former acting assistant attorney general for national security, and Aaron David Miller, CEIP senior fellow https://carnegieendowment.org/2024/02/07/political-violence-in-america

2 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion: "Unifying Transatlantic Perspectives Amidst Divisive Challenges," focusing on support to Ukraine, the contentious threat landscape in the Black Sea region, and Bulgaria-U.S. relations, with Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov https://www.csis.org/events/unifying-transatlantic-perspectives

2:45 p.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW — Brookings Institution's Foreign Policy Program discussion: "Two years into the Russia-Ukraine war," with Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide; Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution; and Fiona Hill, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution's Center on the United States and Europe https://www.brookings.edu/events/two-years-into-the-russia-ukraine-war

5 p.m. 1521 16th Street NW — Institute of World Politics discussion: "The Perspective of an American Advisor to Putin's Transition Team," with James Carter, senior fellow at the American First Policy Institute's Center for American Prosperity https://www.iwp.edu/the-perspective-of-an-american-advisor-to-putins-transition-team

7 p.m. 610 Water St. SW — Politics and Prose Bookstore book discussion: "Countdown: The Blinding Future of Nuclear Weapons," with author Sarah Scoles, contributing writer at Popular Science https://www.politics-prose.com/sarah-scoles

THURSDAY | FEBRUARY 8 

9:30 a.m — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion: "What is Next for Taiwan?" with Randall Schriver, chairman of the board of the Project 2049 Institute; Sue Mi Terry, senior adviser at Macro Advisory Partners; Mark Lippert, CSIS Korea chairman; and Victor Cha, CSIS senior vice president for Asia https://www.csis.org/events/what-next-taiwan-capital-cable-87

10:30 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: "Building U.S. Nuclear Energy Independence: The Russia Connection," with Ukrainian Minister of Energy German Galushchenko; John Kotek, senior vice president of policy development and public affairs at the Nuclear Energy Initiative; Jennifer Gordon, director of the Atlantic Council's Nuclear Energy Policy Initiative; and Debra Cagan, senior adviser at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/

11:30 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Center for Strategic and International Studies Project on Prosperity and Development discussion: "The Continued Need for Support to Ukraine," with former Polish President Lech Walesa and Max Bergmann, director of the CSIS Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program and Stuart Center https://www.csis.org/events/continued-need-support-ukraine

12 p.m. 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies discussion: "U.S.-Korea Relations," with Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) https://sais.jhu.edu/campus-events

12:30 p.m. 14th and F Sts. NW — Arab Center discussion: "Arab Public Opinion of the Gaza War and U.S. Policy," with Shibley Telhami, professor at the University of Maryland; Sarah Yerkes, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Dana El Kurd, nonresident senior fellow at the Arab Center; Tamara Kharroub, deputy executive director of the Arab Center; and Yousef Munayyer, head of the Arab Center's Palestine/Israel Program https://arabcenterdc.org/event/arab-public-opinion

1 p.m. Pentagon Briefing Room — Press conference with Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau; and Senior Enlisted Adviser Tony Whitehead, chief, the National Guard Bureau on National Guard priorities for 2024 https://www.defense.gov

1:30 p.m. — Foundation for Defense of Democracies fireside chat: "Victory and Defeat in Ukraine," with Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Bradley Bowman, senior director, FDD Center on Military and Political Power https://www.fdd.org/events/2024/02/08/victory-and-defeat-in-ukraine

4 p.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW — American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research discussion: "Europe at War? A Conversation with the Secretary General of the European External Action Service," with Stefano Sannino, secretary general of the European External Action Service https://www.aei.org/events/europe-at-war-a-conversation

3 p.m. —  Rand Corporation virtual discussion: "Reforming DOD's Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Process for a Competitive Future," with former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall; Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante; Bob Hale, chairman of the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Reform Commission; Eric Fanning, commissioner of the PPBE Reform Commission; Lara Sayer, executive director for the PPBE Reform Commission; and Stephanie Young, director of the Rand Resource Management Program https://www.rand.org/events/2024/02/PPBE-reform.html

FRIDAY | FEBRUARY 9

1 p.m. 2401 M St., NW — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group "coffee conversation," with Gen. Bryan Fenton, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command. RSVP to Thom Shanker at [email protected]

3:30 p.m. 1030 15th Street NW — Atlantic Council discussion: "Air Force Acquisition Priorities 2024," with Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics; Clementine Starling, director of the Atlantic Council's Forward Defense and the Atlantic Council's Center for Strategy and Security; and Steven Grundman, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Forward Defense and the Atlantic Council's Center for Strategy and Security RSVP: [email protected]

QUOTE OF THE DAY
"My hope is that we can actually talk about how we're going to amend it, how we're going to go through the process on it. This is the opening salvo on it, and we will have the real dialogue to be able to go through it. Worst-case scenario, we do nothing and another 2 million people cross this year and we have even more national security issues than we even have right now."
Sen. James Lankford (R-OH), lead Republican negotiator on the border deal that former President Donald Trump and his supporters are trying to kill
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