Iran sanctions, suspended aid to Pakistan among other items in Defense bill

Some changes were made in conference committee at the Obama administration’s request, including expanding the administration’s national security waiver, but the bulk of the measure remained.

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The House version of the Defense bill would have prevented military chaplains from performing same-sex marriages. The final bill included a clause letting chaplains opt-out of performing the marriages without restricting them altogether.

In a clash between the Pentagon and Congress, the legislation will elevate the head of the National Guard to a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The measure was added through an amendment to both the House and Senate bills, but Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were opposed to it. Senate Armed Services ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also did not support adding the Guard chief, but it stayed in the conference report.

The legislation froze $700 million in foreign aid to Pakistan, whose relations with the U.S. have soured after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by NATO forces along the border. The aid will be frozen until Pakistan shows improvement at stopping the spread of materials to make IEDs.

On the F-35 fighter, the bill would shift the burden for cost overruns to Lockheed Martin on the next lot of planes.

Of course, the biggest fight was over the military detention of terror suspects, which sparked a White House veto threat.

Senators were still disagreeing whether the bill allowed the detention of U.S. citizens after the bill had passed Thursday 86-13.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who proposed unsuccessful amendments that would have stripped the detainee provisions from the bill, said he was still “extremely troubled” by the language on military detention.

“These provisions could be interpreted to allow the indefinite detention without trial of U.S. citizens,” said Udall, an Armed Services committee member who nonetheless voted for the bill.

But Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) insisted that the bill did not grant the authority to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely.

“Those who say that we have written into law a new authority to detain American citizens until the end of hostilities are wrong,” Levin said in a statement. “Neither the Senate bill nor the conference report establishes new authority to detain American citizens — or anybody else.”