Daily on Defense: Ukraine aid hangs by thread, Kinzinger’s call for radical action, SCOTUS takes up landmark question, KH commander killed in drone strike

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LAST CHANCE: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) plans to try again to move ahead with a $95 billion international aid bill that includes $60 billion for Ukraine as well as funding for Israel, Taiwan, and Indo-Pacific partners. Schumer had hoped to move the bill to the floor for debate and amendments yesterday but adjourned the Senate last night when it appeared he was short of the 60-vote threshold necessary to advance the measure, reportedly saying Democrats would "give our Republican colleagues the night to figure themselves out."

"We are negotiating with Republicans. We're trying to find a path forward," Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said last night on CNN. "We're frustrated, disappointed. We'll tell you it just. It should have passed today. We're not going to give up. It's just too important."

"Aid to Ukraine is absolutely necessary now in order for Ukraine to stop the aggression of Russia," Cardin said. "The soldiers in Ukraine are, today, rationing their ammunition because they don't have enough in order to keep the aggression of Russia at bay." Despite widespread bipartisan support for Ukraine, passage of the revamped aid bill is far from certain. 

"We had 58 votes on the board tonight for reconsideration. You need 60," Cardin said. "So many of my colleagues who voted no, I know that they support aid to Ukraine. They've said it over and over and over again. So, I can't see how they can vote against bringing this bill to the floor. … This isn't even passage. It's just to have the bill on the floor so we can consider amendments and have debate."


THE HOUSE HURDLE: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who just suffered two stinging defeats on Israel aid and the Mayorkas impeachment fiasco, refuses even to consider the Senate bill should it pass and be sent to the House.

"We'll see what the Senate does," Johnson told reporters yesterday. "We're allowing the process to play out, and we'll handle it as it is sent over. I have made very clear that you have to address these issues on their own merits, and Israel desperately needs the assistance. Everyone knows that."

Johnson has to deal with his hard-right wing, including the Freedom Caucus, whose members have blocked Ukraine funding in the past. More than 100 House Republicans voted against a Ukraine aid bill in September.

"You're seeing the messy sausage-making, the process of democracy play out, and it's not always clean. It's not always pretty, but the job will be done at the end of the day," Johnson said, referring to the chaos of the past few days. "We're going to govern this country. It's the greatest country in the history of the world. The entire world is counting upon us. We have steady hands at the wheel. We'll get through it. Everybody take a deep breath. It's a long game. We're going to get the job done." 


KINZINGER: TIME TO HOLD THE HOUSE HOSTAGE: Former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) took to social media last night to call for a few Republicans of conscience to use an extreme strategy to force a vote on Ukraine aid if Johnson refuses to allow a vote on a Senate-passed bill.

"I have one way to guarantee that the vote for Ukraine aid gets put on the floor and very soon," Kinzinger said. "Out of 200 or so GOP members of the House, it only takes three or four to commit to vote against every rule until the speaker agrees to put Ukraine aid on the floor for an up-or-down vote."

The tactic would freeze all action in the House, unless or until Johnson caved. "This is what the Freedom Caucus does all the time, and that's frankly why the Freedom Caucus is successful," Kinzinger said. "Until people on the other end of that argument are willing to fight by the same rules, or lack of rules, that the Freedom Caucus fights by, they will run the table every time."

"So the Republicans, all the ones that support Ukraine aid, only three or four of them have to commit to vote against every rule until the aid package is put on the floor," Kinzinger argued. "Simply put the aid bill on the floor and allow the members of Congress to actually have their say. They know it'll pass by the way."


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 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


HAPPENING TODAY, A LANDMARK DEBATE: The Supreme Court today tackles a historic question that could have seismic ramifications for the 2024 presidential election. The high court will hear arguments about whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, passed after the Civil War, bars former President Donald Trump from holding office again.

The amendment reads:

"No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."

Attorneys for the former president argue the Jan. 6 riot wasn't an insurrection and that even if it was, Trump did not take part. They also argue the clause doesn't apply to the presidency or candidates running for president.


US STRIKES IN THE HEART OF BAGHDAD: In one of those amazingly accurate drone strikes made possible by precise targeting technology and exquisite intelligence, the U.S. claims to have killed the high-ranking commander of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah militia who it says is "responsible for directly planning and participating in attacks on U.S. forces in the region."

The drone strike destroyed the car Wissam Muhammad Sabir al Saadi, also known as Abu Baqir al Saadi, was traveling in as it was moving down a busy Baghdad street, as video on social media showed. 

 "There are no indications of collateral damage or civilian casualties at this time," the U.S. Central Command said in a short statement. "The United States will continue to take necessary action to protect our people. We will not hesitate to hold responsible all those who threaten our forces' safety."

Once again, the Iraqi government was given no warning of the strike, and the heavily guarded Green Zone, where a number of diplomatic compounds are located, was immediately sealed off in anticipation of angry protests by Iraqis. 

Relations between Washington and Baghdad have already been greatly strained by U.S. retaliatory strikes in Syria and Iraq in response to the drone attack that killed three American soldiers in Jordan and wounded more than 40 others. 


RUNNING BATTLE AGAINST HOUTHIS: The updates from the U.S. Central Command have become a nearly daily routine. Iranian-backed Houthis continue to target shipping in the Red Sea, and the U.S. continues to seek and destroy its missiles and drones on the ground or sometimes in flight.

The latest update from CENTCOM said that last night, two Houthi mobile anti-ship cruise missiles were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea and were taken out by U.S. forces, followed a few hours later by a second strike against a Houthi mobile land attack cruise missile prepared to launch.

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

The latest action follows a Houthi attack Tuesday targeting the Motor Vehicle Star Nasia, a Marshall Islands-flagged, Greek-owned-and-operated bulk carrier transiting the Gulf of Aden. "Iranian-backed Houthi militants fired six anti-ship ballistic missiles from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen," CENTCOM said. "M/V Star Nasia reported an explosion near the ship causing minor damage but no injuries."


SEARCH FOR MISSING MARINES: A Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter that failed to return to base has been located on a snowy mountain near San Diego, but the five-person crew is still missing as rescuers battle a historic storm that has dumped heavy snow and record rain over California.

The helicopter had been flying from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, when contact with it was lost. 

The five people on board, from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, were conducting a routine training flight when the helicopter was reported overdue Tuesday.



Washington Examiner: US kills Iraqi militia leader responsible for attacks on American troops

Washington Examiner: US confirms Houthis have same Iranian drones Tehran provided to Russia

Washington Examiner: House Oversight GOP seeks answers on security of weapons provided to Ukraine

Washington Examiner: Schumer punts Ukraine bill vote as Republicans demand amendments

Washington Examiner: Senate regroups after dramatic collapse of border deal with Schumer backup plan

Washington Examiner: Biden prepares executive order to address expected surge in activity as border deal collapses

Washington Examiner: Biden left with few Plan B options to fix border crisis after bipartisanship collapses

Washington Examiner: Leaked Border Patrol numbers show illegal immigrant arrests dropped 50% from December to January

Washington Examiner: Sinema unleashes on Republicans who rejected border deal: 'Don't come to Arizona'

Washington Examiner: Republicans suffer 24 hours of failure, and one man is linked to all of it

Washington Examiner: Johnson reckons with twin defeats to Biden after border victory

Washington Examiner: McConnell surveys GOP wreckage after Senate border deal falls apart

Washington Examiner: Why Mike Johnson could be on the hot seat after Tuesday's double embarrassment

Washington Examiner: Simmering House GOP tensions boil over after failed impeachment vote

Washington Examiner: Biden opts out of press conference with German chancellor as he walks media 'tightrope'

Washington Examiner: Trump's 14th Amendment ballot dispute brings overnight crowd to Supreme Court steps

Washington Examiner: Durbin calls on Clarence Thomas to recuse from Trump ballot case

Washington Examiner: Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire terms, vows to continue war efforts

Washington Examiner: Blinken acknowledges 'clear nonstarters' in Hamas proposal but sees path forward

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Spying on the Netherlands, China traps itself between Roald Dahl and reality

Washington Examiner: Opinion: The US must not count on NATO to deter China

Politico: Intel Officials Warned Well Before Tower 22 Attack of Increased Risks from Drones

NBC News: When Houthis Fire Missiles, These Navy Warship Officers Must Make Split-Second Decisions

New York Times: Russian Missile Barrage Strikes Ukrainian Cities

Washington Post: Front-line Ukrainian infantry units report acute shortage of soldiers

Wall Street Journal: Kyiv Rations Munitions as Aid Dwindles

Fox News: Ukraine Says Russia's Black Sea Fleet Suffered Debilitating Losses Since Collapse Of Grain Deal

Washington Post: IDF arrests U.S. citizen in West Bank for 'incitement on social media'

Washington Post: Mattis secretly advised Arab monarch on Yemen war, records show

Yonhap: N. Korea Renews Call For Combat Readiness On Military Founding Anniversary

The War Zone: XQ-67A Combat Drone from General Atomics Breaks Cover

Breaking Defense: Pratt & Whitney Targets 2029 for Upgraded F-35 Engine Deliveries

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Five Years Later, KC-46 Wing Refueling Pods Still Lack FAA Approval

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Air Force Invites Back Retirees To Fill Critical Manning Shortage

Defense One: The Pentagon May Need Machines to Help Stop Insider Threats

Bloomberg: Chinese Hackers Embedded In U.S. Networks For At Least 5 Years

DefenseScoop: New Department of Air Force Partnership Brings Cyber, Space, and Information Units Closer

USNI News: House Panel Questions Pentagon On Military Housing Problems

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Air Force Investing $1.1 Billion in Dorms After Report on Poor Living Conditions

Military Times: Troops Are Still Waiting Weeks for Off-Base Mental Health Appointments

Military.com: On-Base Day Care Costs Went Up for One-Third of Military Families, Even as Those with Lower Incomes Are Paying Less



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


12 p.m. — Foundation for Defense of Democracies virtual discussion: "Israeli Security: The Northern Threat and Other Challenges Ahead," with retired Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, former international spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces and FDD senior fellow; Eyal Hulata, former Israeli national security adviser and FDD senior international fellow; Bradley Bowman, senior director, FDD Center on Military and Political Power; and Anna Schecter, senior producer, NBC News Investigations Unit. https://www.fdd.org/events/2024/02/09/israeli-security-the-northern-threat

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]


12 p.m. — Association of the U.S. Army "Noon Report" webinar with retired Gen. Mark Milley, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Army chief of staff https://www.ausa.org/events/noon-report/gen-milley


4 a.m. Brussels, Belgium — NATO defense ministers meet at NATO Headquarters, with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg scheduled to give a press conference https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news

"I had a popular commentator four weeks ago that I talked to that told me flat out before they knew any of the contents of the bill, any of the content, nothing was out at that point, that told me flat out, if you try to move a bill that solves the border crisis during this presidential year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you because I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election. By the way, they have been faithful to their promise and have done everything they can to destroy me."
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), speaking on the Senate floor before the border reforms he negotiated went down to defeat on a vote of 49-50
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