The Military Impacts of November 6: A Post-election Roundup
November 8, 2018
Gregory Hellman / Morning Defense @ POLITICO
Democrats seized the majority in the House for the first time eight years in the midterm elections -- a shakeup that could stymie the ambitions of Donald Trump and pro-Pentagon defense hawks. The takeover puts Democrats in position to launch tough oversight and challenge the GOP on a slew of defense policies. And it gives Democrats substantial leverage in budget negotiations to demand any further hikes in defense spending be matched by more money for domestic priorities.
The Military Impacts of November 6:
A Post-election Roundup
Gregory Hellman / Morning Defense @ POLITICO
(November 7, 2018) – Excerpted from Free Morning Defense, published online weekdays by POLITICO for Pro Defense subscribers looking for comprehensive policy intelligence coverage, policy tools and services.
DEMOCRATS FLIP THE HOUSE:
Democrats seized back the majority in the House for the first time eight years in Tuesday's midterm elections in a shakeup that could stymie the ambitions of President Donald Trump and defense hawks.
The takeover puts Democrats in a prime position to launch tough oversight and challenge the administration on a slew of defense policies. And it gives Democrats substantial leverage in budget negotiations to demand any further hikes in defense spending be matched by money for Democratic domestic priorities.
A LONG NIGHT IN THE SENATE:
The blue wave didn't extend to the Senate, where a slew of Democrats lost in states Trump won in 2016. Republicans expanded their majority, though early this morning their final total remained unclear. Their road went right through the Senate Armed Services Committee — Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri went down in defeat, while Bill Nelson trailed in a tight race in Florida. It all amounts big shakeup for defense-oriented Democrats in the Senate.
HERE ARE SOME DEFENSE TAKEAWAYS:
ENTER CHAIRMAN SMITH:
House Armed Services ranking Democrat Adam Smith is poised to take over as chairman and likely give the Pentagon some heartburn.
The Washington state congressman has often decried his fellow lawmakers for ducking tough choices on the defense budget and big ticket military programs and has said he'll take a skeptical eye to historically high military spending enacted by Republicans over the past two years.
He's also made clear he'll beef up the panel's oversight of U.S. military operations abroad, including support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and work to roll back Trump's plans to modernize and expand the nuclear arsenal.
Smith easily won his own contest in the Seattle area, turning back a challenge from Democratic Socialist Sarah Smith.
More here on what a Smith Armed Services chairmanship might mean.
THE VISCLOSKY ERA BEGINS ON HAC-D:
In addition to Smith, longtime Democratic appropriator Pete Visclosky of Indiana is poised to take over the influential House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. The low-key lawmaker, who represents the northwestern corner of Indiana that includes Gary, will be tasked with crafting annual Pentagon spending legislation, the largest of the 12 yearly government funding bills.
SASC DEMS GET SHAKEN UP:
Three of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats sit on the Armed Services Committee. McCaskill fell to Missouri's Republican attorney general, Josh Hawley. And Donnelly was soundly defeated by former Republican state legislator and businessman Mike Braun.
Meanwhile, Nelson is trailing in tight race in Florida to Republican Gov. Rick Scott. It's the biggest electoral shakeup for the committee since Democrats lost the Senate majority in the 2014 midterms.
INHOFE'S STAY EXTENDED:
With a rejuvenated Senate majority, Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe will hang on to his Armed Services gavel. He took over the panel in September following the death of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
From that influential perch, he'll continue to be a staunch ally of the Trump administration and likely push for continued high levels of defense spending.
All three SASC Republicans up for reelection — Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Ted Cruz of Texas — won as well.
VETS AND NATSEC HANDS:
A slew of military veterans and national security professionals also vied for the House and Senate on Tuesday.
Notable races included Rep. Mike Coffman , a Marine veteran who chairs the HASC Personnel Subcommittee, who lost in Colorado to Democratic challenger Jason Crow, an Army veteran. In Virginia, Republican Rep. Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, was ousted by Democratic challenger Elaine Luria.
And some highly touted veteran candidates came up short, including Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath, a retired Marine pilot, and West Virginia Democrat Richard Ojeda, a retired Army major.
Also in Virginia, Republican Rep. Dave Brat lost a close contest to Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer. In Michigan, Democrat Elissa Slotkin, a former Pentagon official, narrowly defeated Republican Rep. Mike Bishop. And in New Jersey, former State Department official Tom Malinowski, a Democrat, defeated GOP Rep. Leonard Lance.
Military Times' Leo Shane has an updated list of which of the 173 veteran candidates for the House and Senate won on Tuesday.
AND HERE'S A SNAPSHOT OF SOME
OTHER DEFENSE-RELATED RACES:
-- Cruz holds off O'Rourke:
It was one of the most closely watched contests of the entire cycle, but Cruz staved off a tough challenge in Texas from Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, himself a HASC member. Still, O'Rourke might have helped Democrats running further down the Texas ballot, where Republicans like House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions and senior appropriator John Culberson lost to their Democratic challengers.
-- Rosen steps up to the Senate:
HASC member Jacky Rosen took down Republican Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada in a top targeted race for Democrats.
Another attempt by a HASC member to move up to the Senate remained too close to call. Republican Rep. Martha McSally, a member of the panel, took on Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona.
-- Baldwin fends off challenger:
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, defeated Republican Leah Vukmir to hold onto her seat in Wisconsin. Along with Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, another Democrat on the panel, Baldwin was targeted by Republicans for a potential pickup.
As of this morning, Tester's fate was still undecided.
-- Russell loses a stunner:
The upset of the night in the House belongs to Democrat Kendra Horn, who handed two-term Republican Rep. Steve Russell an unexpected defeat in deep red Oklahoma. Russell, a retired Army officer, sits on House Armed Services.
-- Hunter hangs on:
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who stepped down from HASC earlier this year amid allegations of campaign finance violations, appeared to win his race.
TALIBAN PUMMEL SECURITY FORCES ACROSS AFGHANISTAN:
"Dozens of soldiers and police officers were killed or captured in nine Taliban attacks that overran security bases and outposts in different parts of Afghanistan during a 24-hour period that ended on Tuesday, officials said," via the NYT.
FIGHT STALLS AGAINST THE LAST VESTIGE OF ISIS IN SYRIA:
"An American-backed military offensive has stalled against the Islamic State's last vestige in eastern Syria — in part because of the enemy that the allied fighting force had expected, and other threats that it very much had not," writes the NYT.
A 'LEGACY OF TERROR' IS FOUND IN IRAQ:
"More than 200 mass graves holding as many as 12,000 bodies have been found in areas of Iraq once controlled by the Islamic State, the United Nations said on Tuesday," also via the NYT.
SAUDI-LED COALITION REDOUBLES ATTACKS IN YEMEN:
"The fight in Yemen has escalated dramatically over the past week, exacerbating a dire humanitarian crisis that the United Nations says could spiral into famine — despite, or even because of, a diplomatic push by the United States to get both sides to the peace table," adds the NYT.
Continuing POLITICO coverage of Tuesday's midterm elections is here.
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