Congress sends defense bill to Obama

The Senate followed the House on Thursday in overwhelmingly approving the Defense Authorization Act for 2012 conference report, after an eleventh-hour compromise on the terrorist detainee provision removed a veto threat from the White House.

The bill now goes to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it into law.

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The $670 billion authorization bill sets spending levels at the Department of Defense through fiscal year 2012, including salaries for soldiers setting spending levels for the development of the military's weapons systems.

The changes to the bill forged in conference between the chambers fortify the president's right to prosecute accused terrorists captured on U.S. soil in civilian courts, although the legislation maintains military custody as the default. 

Thursday's debate, prior to the 86-13 passage, mirrored floor action that occurred late last month, with opponents largely split along partisan lines. Republicans argued that accused terrorists should be denied their Miranda rights and be subject to indefinite military detentions while Democrats argued that American citizens possess a birthright to civilian proceedings. 

Junior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) asserted, "No member of al Qaeda, no terrorist should ever hear the words 'you have the right to remain silent.' "

Senior member of the committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), took the argument even further calling members of al Qaeda "crazy people” and saying it would be "the dumbest thing in the history of the world for a nation" to treat our enemies better on our own land than on the battlefield.

But Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) both argued that the civilian system has been a more effective agency for dispersing justice to terrorists and said they worried about the encroachment on Americans' constitutional rights. 

The House approved the bill 283-136 earlier in the week.