House Votes To Approve Defense Bill
After the White House withdrew its veto threat, Congress by a vote of 283-136, passed the $662 billion Defense spending bill which contains a controversial provision regarding the detention of suspected terrorist.
For weeks the White House had threatened to veto the bill. However, after House and Senate members agreed to changes in the provision, the veto threat was withdrawn. Press Secretary Jay Carney stated the changes in the provision prompted the President to change his mind.
Specifically, the White House took issue with the detainee detention provision. The bill requires the military take custody of a suspect considered to be a member of Al Qaeda or its affiliates and those who are involved in planning or performing terror attacks on the United States. Legislators changed the language of the provision providing assurances nothing would impede the ability of civilian law enforcement to carry out terrorism investigations and interrogations in the United States. The bill does contain an exemption for U.S. citizens.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona said the legislation includes a “national security waiver” allowing the president to transfer suspects from military to civilian custody if he so decides.
In statements reported by Fox News: “The provisions do not extend new authority to detain U.S. citizens,” House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said during debate.
But Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the bill would turn “the military into a domestic police force.”
Additionally, the legislators agreed on tough sanctions aimed at the Iranian Central Bank to punish Iran for it’s nuclear program. Sanctions were agreed upon for Pakistan as well to ensure no participation in improvised explosive device (IEDs) transport or manufacturing is taking place.
“We’ve had some shaky relations with Pakistan lately. We need them, and they need us,” said Rep. Buck McKeon, R-California. “We have frozen some of the money that we will be sending to Pakistan until they offer more assurances, more help in this area of … fertilizer and the things that go into making IEDs.”
The bill provides money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, weapons, and national security programs in the Department of Energy.
It will be sent back to the Senate for a vote on Thursday, and in a rare display of bipartisanship, is expected to pass.