Defense & National Security — Omnibus expected to boost defense spending

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is touting the year-end deal on an omnibus spending package as a victory for the GOP due to an expected boost to defense spending above the rate of inflation.

We’ll share what’s expected to be in it, plus the unveiling of the criminal referrals for President Trump from the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, and a rare meeting between the leaders of Russia and Belarus. 

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen MitchellSubscribe here or in the box below.

McConnell touts defense spending in omnibus bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday touted the year-end deal on an omnibus spending package as a victory for Republicans because it will boost defense spending above the rate of inflation and increase nondefense spending at a lower rate than inflation, effectively resulting in a cut.  

The claimed result: McConnell cast the result as the mirror image of what President Biden requested when he sent his budget request to Congress.

  • “The administration wanted to cut funding for our armed forces after inflation while massively increasing spending on nondefense. Republicans have taken the president’s bizarre position and flipped it on its head,” he said on the Senate floor.
  • McConnell said the bill “provides a substantial real-dollar increase to the defense baseline and a substantial real-dollar cut to the nondefense, non-veterans baseline.” 

What’s expected: Republican sources say the boost in defense-related spending compared to what they’re calling the “real-dollar cut” to nondefense spending is more dramatic when the generous increase in spending on military veterans — which is classified on the nondefense side of the spending ledger — is factored in.   

McConnell also highlighted the fact that the omnibus is expected to exclude what he called “left-wing goodies,” such as the Safe Banking Act, which would prohibit federal regulators from penalizing financial institutions that do business with legitimate cannabis-related businesses.   

“The bipartisan bill that our colleagues have negotiated equips our armed forces with the resources they need while cutting nondefense, non-veterans spending in real dollars,” he said, calling it “a strong outcome for Republicans” and the nation’s security.

Dem disappointment: Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) expressed disappointment on Monday afternoon that nondefense social spending programs will receive a smaller increase than defense programs, but he noted that Democrats didn’t have much leverage to insist on parity.   

Read the rest here 

Jan. 6 panel unveils criminal referrals against Trump

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol unveiled criminal referrals on Monday targeting former President Trump.

  • The panel recommended that the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate the ex-president for inciting an insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement and obstruction of an official proceeding. 
  • The referrals mark the culmination of the committee’s 18-month probe of the Jan. 6 attack and the role Trump played before, during and after the riot. They are a crescendo in the panel’s central case that Trump was at the center of a conspiracy to keep himself in power. 

Decision reasoning: Investigators on the committee said they decided on criminal referrals against Trump based on sufficient evidence showing he violated various statutes: inciting, assisting, or aiding and comforting an insurrection; obstructing an official proceeding; conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to make a false statement. 

“We propose to the committee advancing referrals where the gravity of the specific offense, the severity of its actual harm, and the centrality of the offender to the overall design of the unlawful scheme to overthrow the election compel us to speak,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the panel, said at Monday’s meeting. “Ours is not a system of justice where foot soldiers go to jail and the masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass.” 

Also in the crosshairs: Trump campaign attorney John Eastman, who crafted two memos for the campaign outlining methods to stop the certification of the election results, was also referred for obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States. 

Symbolic: The recommendations themselves, however, are largely symbolic, as the Department of Justice is not required to look into referrals from congressional committees.

  • They come as the agency is conducting its own investigation into the Capitol riot that was recently put under the purview of an independent special counsel. 
  • The referrals nonetheless mark a significant escalation in the political fight between the committee and Trump, especially as the former president wages his third bid for the White House. 

Up next: DOJ will now have to decide whether it wants to pursue any prosecution based on the panel’s recommendations. It is unclear how the agency will proceed. 

Read that story here 

Also from The Hill: 

Belarus leader says situation ‘escalating’

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is striking a defiant tone ahead of a rare meeting this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid growing concerns that Belarus could be pulled into Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

Lukashenko, emphasizing his country’s sovereignty at a Friday meeting in Minsk on Russia-Belarus cooperation, said the situation was “escalating” as he prepares to talk with Putin on Monday. 

The rumor mill: The Belarusian leader refuted the “whispering” in his country that “Russians are already walking and running the country.” 

“I would like to emphasize this feature once again: no one, except us, governs Belarus,” Lukashenko said, according to remarks published by the presidential press service. “We must always proceed from the fact that we are a sovereign state and independent.” 

A rare meeting: Putin will travel to Belarus and meet with Lukashenko on Monday in his first state visit to the country in three years.

  • The two leaders are expected to discuss “key aspects” of their partnership as well as other international and regional issues, a statement from the Kremlin said. 
  • Lukashenko last week said the main topic would be economics but added he and Putin will also discuss defense and security in the region, according to the Belarusian presidential press service. 

An earlier staging ground: Belarus served as a staging ground for Russia early in the war against Ukraine when Putin mobilized troops and arms that he sent into Ukraine in late February. 

In October, Belarus also deployed thousands of troops with Russia to conduct joint military drills, renewing fears that Putin’s ally would commit forces to the war. 

Resistance: Lukashenko has resisted joining the war directly, even as Ukrainian officials warn Russia is ramping up efforts to rope its neighbor into the conflict. 

Read the rest here


The Atlantic Council Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security’s Indo-Pacific Security Initiative will hold an event on “A next-generation agenda for US-ROK-Japan trilateral cooperation,” at 7 p.m.


That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!