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Senate passes National Defense Authorization Act

Posted By McQ • [December 06, 2012]

Approved?  $631 billion.  

[T]he legislation ... authorizes money for weapons, aircraft and ships and provides a 1.7 percent pay raise for military personnel. 

The vote was 98-0, which, in this day and time, is quite remarkable.  However a Presidential veto hangs over the Senate version of the NDAA.  Why?

The administration has threatened to veto the Senate bill, strongly objecting to a provision restricting the president's authority to transfer terror suspects from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to foreign countries. The provision is in current law.

The Senate also voted to restrict the transfer of detainees held at Guantanamo to prisons in the United States.

That would effectively shoot any chance the President would have of closing Gitmo in the near future.  The point of the provision is to many former Gitmo residents transfered to other countries have ended up shooting at Americans again.  This would effectively stop that.  Additionally, there have been rumors of the Federal government is again in the market to buy a closed prison in the US with the intention of transfering Gitmo prisoners to that prison.  That should be a no-go.  Last, of course, it is a restriction on presidential power. 

Syria:

Reacting to the relentless violence in Syria, the Senate voted 92-6 to require the Pentagon to report to Congress on the ability of the U.S. military to impose a no-fly zone over Syria.

Republican Sen. John McCain, who has pushed for greater U.S. military involvement to end the Syrian civil war, sponsored the amendment. Obama on Monday warned Syrian President Bashar Assad not to use chemical and/or biological weapons against his people as the U.S. and its allies weigh military options.

"If military action has to be taken to prevent sarin gas to be used, Congress has to be involved," McCain said.

Who is saying "military action" has to be taken in such a case?  Oh, McCain, that's right.  Sorry, but I vote "no" on this little adventure.  If, per our politicians, we can't afford Afghanistan, we can't afford Syria.  And besides, Libya turned out so well, didn't it?

Speaking of Afghanistan:

The bill sends a clear message to Obama and the military to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan. On a strong bipartisan vote of 62-33 last week, the Senate endorsed Obama's timetable to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014 but pressed for a quicker pace, without specifying how that would be achieved.

Obama and the military are engaged in high-stakes talks about the pace of drawing down the 66,000 U.S. combat troops there now.

Time to leave.  I'm with the Senate here.

Iran:

The bill added stringent new sanctions on Iran's energy and shipping sectors in a fresh attempt to hobble the Islamic Republic's economy and hamper its nuclear ambitions.

The sanctions build upon penalties that Congress has passed -- and Obama has implemented -- that target Tehran's financial and energy sectors.

Officials in Washington argue that the sanctions have undermined Tehran's economy and robust oil sales, thwarting its suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who have shepherded sanctions bills through Congress, sponsored the latest package that also would close a major loophole -- the ability of Iran to circumvent sanctions and barter oil for precious metals. Turkey has been bartering gold for oil.

The sanctions would designate Iran's energy, port, shipping and ship-building sectors as "entities of proliferation" and prohibit transactions with these areas. The legislation also would penalize individuals selling or supplying commodities such as graphite, aluminum and steel to Iran, all products that are crucial to Tehran's ship-building and nuclear operations.

The administration complains that these additional sanctions are redundant and unnecessary.  Iran, of course, simply sees these sorts of attempts as a challenge to their sovereignty and usually doubles down on their development effort.

Finally:

Current law denies suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens seized within the nation's borders, the right to trial and subjects them to the possibility they would be held indefinitely. It reaffirms the post-Sept. 11, 2001 authorization for the use of military force that allows indefinite detention of enemy combatants.

That provision had created a conservative backlash, and a coalition of liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans pushed for the new provision.

I'm sorry, no matter how odius they may be, US citizens have certain Constitutional rights that must be respected.  It's sort of like free speech ... if you don't protect the worst speech you can imagine, then the "freedom" expressed in the protection is worthless.  

So, a lot in there, a lot of controversy, the threat of a presidential veto and a likely confrontation between the House and Senate before the bill is reconciled.  It'll be interesting to see how it turns out.

~McQ


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