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Senate defense authorization gets a veto threat

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There is a likely White House veto waiting for the defense authorization currently on the Senate floor if significant changes are not made, according to a statement from Obama administration. 

In a Nov. 29 statement of administration policy (.pdf), the administration says it disagrees with a number of provisions in S.3254, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2013, and presidential advisors would recommend a veto of the current bill.

The bill was considered by the Senate on Nov. 29 and 30, with a cloture motion on the bill set for a Dec. 3 vote. The House approved its version of the fiscal 2013 defense authorization by a vote of 299-120 on May 18.

Among the Obama administration's objections are language that limits transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries, a forced 5 percent reduction of civilian workforce, authorizations for new weapons programs and upgrades not requested by the Defense Department, and restrictions to cybersecurity options of the National Security Agency.

The Senate voted 62-37 for an amendent that would allow the Pentagon to invest in alternative fuels, addressing one of the administration's other complaints.

Other objections to the bill include a prohibition on funds for the Medium Extended Air Defense System, which it says is needed to maintain the current relationship with partners like Italy and Germany; authorization for pushing forward with upgrades to the M-1 Abrams tank and the construction of a chemistry and metallurgy research facility; and lack of authorization for the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq to conduct some training and assistance services for Iraq's military and counter-terrorism operations.

The White House did express support for various new sections including one that allows women servicemembers to have access to abortion services in cases of rape or incest, and the ability to pay for abortions on their own in other situations.

The Senate also approved 67-29 an amendment sponsored by Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would explicitly state that the military could not detain a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident arrested within the United States "unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detenion."

The amendment comes in the wake of last year's authorization bill, which says the military may detain without trial "until the end of hostilities" terrorists or their supporters.

Feinstein said on the Senate floor the amendment is necessary to clarify that existing law doesn't permit Americans to "picked up and held without end, without charge or trial."

But, the American Civil Liberities Union noted in a Nov. 29 letter (.pdf) that amendment's inclusion of the phrase permitting Congress to expressly authorize such detention could be "read to imply that there are no constitutional obstacles to Congress enacting a statute that would authorize the domestic military detention of any person in the United States." The ACLU also noted that the Fifth Amendment says "no person" shall be deprived of liberty in the United States without due process--and so the amendment, by specifying protection only for citizens and green card holders, implies that indefinite military detention of anybody else is lawful.

For more:
read the White House statement of administration policy (.pdf)
go to the THOMAS page for S.3254

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