US House passes $690 billion defense authorization bill

US House passes $690 billion defense authorization bill

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[JURIST] The US House of Representatives passed the $690 billion National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 [HR 1540 materials] Thursday, approving the basic funding plan with a 322-96 vote [roll call vote]. The bill contains many controversial provisions such as prohibitions on the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo [JURIST news archive] detainees to the US or other foreign countries, making it difficult for US President Barack Obama to close [JURIST report] the US Naval detention facility. Also on Thursday, the House passed an amendment to the bill 246-173 [roll call vote] proposed by Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL) [official website] to require all foreign terror suspects to be tried by military tribunals. The Obama administration issued a statement earlier this week threatening a veto if such a provision is in the bill. The statement said such a provision:

is a dangerous and unprecedented challenge to critical Executive branch authority to determine when and where to prosecute detainees, based on the facts and the circumstances of each case and our national security interests. It unnecessarily constrains our Nation’s counterterrorism efforts and would undermine our national security, particularly where our Federal courts are the best—or even the only—option for incapacitating dangerous terrorists.

The bill also contains a provision [Sec. 533] that would delay the the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive], which was on track [JURIST report] to be completely repealed by midsummer. The provision requires the chiefs of each military branch to provide written certification that the repeal of DADT be harmful to the “readiness, effectiveness, cohesion, and morale” of armed forces units. Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] Washington Legislative Office, responded [press release] to the DADT condition:

Trying to throw a roadblock up to derail “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal at this point is a desperate attempt to postpone the inevitable. For nearly 20 years, lesbian, gay and bisexual service members have been forced to hide who they are and who they love in order to serve their country. It was with the will of the president, the uniformed and civilian leadership of the military and Congress itself that [DADT] was repealed and its implementation will continue to move forward successfully despite the attempts by some House members to disrupt it.

The bill must still be reconciled [AP report] with the Senate version which the Armed Forces Committee [official website] will begin crafting on June 13.

Last January, Obama signed the last defense authorization [JURIST report] bill which also contained limits on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees. The Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 [HR 6523] imposed significant setbacks to the Obama administration’s self-imposed deadline [JURIST report] for closing the military prison at Guantanamo.