‘Fiscal cliff’ deal also resolves defense bill issue

A congressional aide said that the tweaks were made in order to address “a clarification request” from the Obama administration.

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A Democratic congressional source told The Hill that the fiscal-cliff bill "amended a poorly written provision that would have allowed the Russians to dictate U.S. nuclear arsenal policy."

"Both Republicans and Democrats agreed to the fix, and it was quickly made," the source said.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told The Hill on Monday — before the fiscal-cliff deal was reached — that the issue with the administration was a minor one he expected would be resolved soon.

As it turned out, the fiscal-cliff bill became the vehicle to make the NDAA clarification. The bill passed the Senate early Tuesday morning and the House Tuesday evening.

The NDAA was sent to the president on Dec. 30, two weeks after it passed the Senate. That meant the 10-day clock did not start until Sunday, giving the administration until next week to sign or veto the legislation.

The White House has threatened a veto over the defense bill’s detainee provisions and other changes to the administration’s Pentagon budget, but Levin and other lawmakers have said they don’t expect a veto.

If the president did in fact veto the bill after Thursday, the defense committees would likely have to start over to get a bill signed into law with the start of the 113th Congress. 

The White House also threatened to veto the defense authorization bill passed in 2011, but instead wound up issuing a signing statement with the legislation, a move that may be replicated this year.