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Precarious Path Ahead for Defense Authorization Bill

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  • October 12, 2011
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Issues on both sides of the Capitol are raising questions as to whether Congress will pass a fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill before the end of the year.

On the Senate side, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has delayed bringing the measure, S. 1253, to the floor in response to administration concerns over three provisions dealing with the detention of terrorism suspects. The White House opposes language barring accused terrorists with direct ties to al Qaeda from being held in federal prisons.

Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), however, said Wednesday that if he can’t assuage the White House’s concerns, he will find a way to remove the provisions from the legislation before it goes to the floor, reported CQ Today. And, instead, the language at issue would be debated as part of an amendment.

The administration previously threatened to veto the authorization bill if it contains the stricter provisions dealing with detainees in the House-passed version, H.R. 1540.

Last week, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon said he would not be willing to remove language in the House version concerning detainees in order to reach a compromise over the legislation, according to CQ. The House version requires terrorism suspects to receive military commission trials and prohibits their transfer to the United States.

McKeon also said he would not negotiate away a provision in the House version banning same-sex marriages on military installations. The Senate version does not include similar language, setting up another conflict when the bill goes to conference.

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