Redone defense policy bill sails through House

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The House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a new version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after President Obama vetoed an earlier version of the defense policy bill.

“I hope that this year has been an anomaly, that never again does the bill that supports our troops become a political bargaining chip in a political game,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).

The central issue of the veto — funding appropriation — was resolved with the two-year budget deal passed last week, allowing the new version of the NDAA to easily pass the House, 370-58.

The only change in the new version of the bill is $5 billion in cuts to match what was approved in the budget.

Among the cuts are $250 million to the Obama administration’s Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, $250 million to Army readiness, $193 million to Army National Guard readiness and $1.082 billion in fuel savings.

Though the budget deal resolved the fight over this year’s NDAA, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, called for finding a way to avert sequestration beyond the two years set by the budget.

“Until we finally get rid of the budget caps and allow for a predictable — at least five- if not ten-year future, for our Defense Department — national security will be at risk,” Smith said.

When vetoing the original bill, Obama also opposed the language related to the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

The new bill retains that language, preventing the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to the United States for another year.

In a New York Times opinion piece Wednesday, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) called on her Senate colleagues to amend the bill when it gets to the Senate to change the Guantánamo provisions.

“Facilities in the United States are up to the task. There’s no reason to think a Guantánamo detainee is any more likely to escape from Supermax than any other federal prisoner,” she wrote, referring to a prison in Colorado touted by Pentagon officials as a possible site to house detainees. “It hasn’t happened before, and there’s no reason to think that would change.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest stopped short of issuing a veto threat on the new NDAA over Guantánamo. But he said the president wouldn’t rule out using an executive action to close the prison.

Obama has threatened to veto the NDAA in past years over Guantánamo, only to ultimately sign it.

Cristina Marcos contributed to this report

Tags Adam Smith National Defense Authorization Act

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