U.S. Congress to consider new version of sweeping defense policy bill

by Reuters
Wednesday, 4 November 2015 02:54 GMT

(Adds senior administration official, paragraphs 7-8)

WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. House and Senate Armed Services Committees said on Tuesday a version of the National Defense Authorization Act, a sweeping defense policy bill, would go before Congress this week, with $5 billion of cuts reflecting a budget deal passed last week.

The adjustments to the $600 billion measure affect more than 100 programs, the committee's Republican and Democratic leaders said in a statement.

But there is no change to language related to the controversial military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where the United States detains terrorism suspects from around the world. The bill contains strict limits on transfers from the detention center that could prevent President Barack Obama from keeping his promise to close it.

Obama vetoed the NDAA last month because of the way it used war funds to let the Department of Defense avoid mandatory spending cuts, and because of the Guantanamo restrictions.

The spending concerns were addressed in the two-year budget deal Obama signed into law on Monday, which also lifted the threat of a default on government debt through the end of his presidency.

But the White House has not yet said whether Obama would veto the new version of the defense policy bill because of the Guantanamo language, if it is passed in Congress. Lawmakers had been expected to sustain Obama's veto of the earlier version of the bill but it is not clear whether they would back a veto mainly over Guantanamo.

A senior administration official said on Tuesday: "We are reviewing the new language and hope to work with Congress to make the NDAA something the president can sign."

The official said keeping the Guantanamo Bay facility open "weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists."

The House's Republican leaders placed the bill on the suspension calendar, which means it will need a two-thirds majority to pass. They did that to show they have enough votes to override another potential veto.

The House is expected to vote on the bill by Thursday. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing Mohammad Zargham and)

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