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Overnight Defense: Pelosi pushes ahead with $3T coronavirus bill | Bill includes no additional Pentagon funding | Watchdog: US, Iraqi military ties 'suffered' amid Iran tensions


Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: House Democratic leaders are pushing ahead with plans to vote on their $3 trillion coronavirus relief package Friday.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiEight surprises in House Democrats’ T coronavirus relief bill On The Money: House Democrats unveil trillion coronavirus relief package | SCOTUS divided in Trump financial records case | Fed under pressure to speed up, expand emergency loans Hillicon Valley: House Dems include .6 billion for mail-in voting in stimulus bill | Uber in discussions to acquire GrubHub | Trump backs effort to reopen California Tesla plant MORE (D-Calif.) is plowing ahead with a Friday vote despite progressives calling for a delay to give lawmakers time to secure additional liberal priorities in the bill.

Pelosi and her allies are putting on a show of force as they try to unite the sometimes-fractious caucus and get their troops in line ahead of this week’s roll call on the 1,800-plus-page bill, dubbed the Heroes Act.

No Republicans are expected to back the package, so Democratic leaders want to limit defections to increase the pressure on President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew York Times: Reporter who called for CDC chief’s resignation went ‘too far’ GOP’s Don Bacon and challenger neck-and-neck in Democratic poll Cheney defends Fauci: ‘We need his expertise’ to defeat coronavirus MORE and Senate Republicans who are in no rush to negotiate another costly rescue package.

What’s in the bill — and what’s not — for defense: The bill notably does not include any new Pentagon funding after a previous coronavirus relief package gave the department $10.5 billion to cover costs of fighting the virus.

The exclusion of further Pentagon funding in a Democratic bill is not surprising given House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithHispanic Caucus endorses Washington Latina House candidate Top Armed Services Republican expects to address Pentagon border wall funds in defense policy bill Defense budget brawl looms after pandemic MORE (D-Wash.) has said he opposes more defense funding.

But it is something progressive groups are touting as a win.

“We asked. House Democrats listened,” Win Without War Executive Director Stephen Miles said in a statement Tuesday. “While this is a victory, it’s not the end. We call on Congress to ensure that this bill, and all further COVID-19 relief bills, remain free of Pentagon budget increases and handouts to the arms industry. We say loud and clear: No more money for the Pentagon.”

While there is no additional Pentagon funding, there are a few provisions in the bill aimed at helping contractors and troops.

For troops, the bill would allow them to end home and vehicle leases, as well as phone, cable and internet contracts, if their military moving plans have been changed due to the Pentagon’s stop-movement orders. It would also require monthly reports on military suicides during the pandemic. 

The bill would also require a plan on mitigating any effects the pandemic has on the ability of overseas voters, such as troops and diplomats, to return mail-in ballots in November.

For federal contractors, the bill would prohibit giving them adverse performance ratings due to delays caused by the pandemic, require accelerated payments to prime contractors within 15 days of submitting invoices and direct federal agencies to allow telework for contractors “to the maximum extent practicable.”

Voting on remote voting: Also expected in the House on Friday is a vote on a measure that would allow for a form of remote voting and virtual committee work as a way to ensure that lawmakers can proceed with legislative business while away from the Capitol during the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed changes, unveiled Wednesday, would allow proxy voting, in which absent lawmakers could authorize colleagues physically present in the House chamber to cast floor votes on their behalf.

It would also allow committees to conduct hearings, depositions and markups of legislation remotely. Such committee meetings could be done with proceedings conducted in a committee room with some members participating remotely — a “hybrid” format the Senate has also recently implemented — or with everyone participating from remote locations.

In other coronavirus news…

Latest figures: Cumulative coronavirus cases connected to the Pentagon stood at 8,210 on Wednesday.

That includes 5,414 cases in the military, including 117 hospitalizations and 2,346 recoveries.

Exercise rescheduled: A joint U.S.-Polish military exercise that had been scheduled for May has been given the go ahead to happen in June.

Modified to protect troops’ health, Allied Spirit will now take place from June 5 to 19 in Poland. About 6,000 troops are expected to participate, including 4,000 U.S. soldiers and 2,000 Polish soldiers.

“Modified from its original design to ensure the safety of Soldiers due to COVID-19, the U.S. and Polish bilateral exercise will feature a Polish airborne operation and a U.S.-Polish division-size river crossing,” U.S. Army Europe said in a news release Wednesday. “All COVID-19 precautionary measures will be taken to ensure the health and protection of participating armed forces and the local population.”

The exercise is linked to Defender-Europe 20, which had been planned as the largest-scale exercise in Europe in 25 years but was cut back because of the pandemic. 

MEANWHILE … IN IRAQ: The U.S. military’s relationship with its Iraqi partners appears to have suffered as a result of U.S.-Iran tensions.

That’s one takeaway from the latest quarterly report from the lead inspector for Operation Inherent Resolve, providing the latest example of how tensions with Iran have affected U.S. relations with Iraq.

Quoting from answers it received from the Pentagon’s office of the undersecretary for policy, international security affairs, Wednesday’s report said the fallout from the U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general “‘probably sowed doubt within the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces]’ about whether the coalition would continue providing support in the future.”

The coalition also told the inspector general “that relationships with Iraqi counterparts suffered because of the pause in U.S. operations against ISIS,” according to the report.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a business meeting to consider a nomination and several pieces of legislation at 9:30 a.m. Audio will be livestreamed. https://bit.ly/2WwOpx3

The Turkish Heritage Organization will host a webinar on “The Future of the Transatlantic Military Alliance” at 11:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/2y46SaO

The Atlantic Council will host an online event with Iraq’s former electricity minister, Luay Al-Khatteeb, at 3 p.m. https://bit.ly/2WZqUvE

ICYMI

— The Hill: Bipartisan lawmakers call on Pompeo to defend Israel against ICC probes

— The Hill: Death toll rises to 24 in attack on Afghan maternity hospital

— The Hill: Opinion: Is the threat from ISIS really more significant because of COVID-19?

— The Hill: Opinion: It’s time to face reality: US must leave Afghanistan

— Reuters: Maternity ward massacre shakes Afghanistan and its peace process

— New York Times: Born into carnage, 18 Afghan babies face an uncertain fate

— Defense One: A ‘mass breakout’ of ISIS from Syrian prisons remains a risk, Pentagon watchdog says

— Washington Post: Arlington Cemetery’s 105-year-old time capsule is revealing lost treasures



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