#1 House approves $602B defense bill despite White House objections by april 18.05.2016 23:52



WASHINGTON – The Republican-led House voted convincingly Wednesday to approve a $602 billion defense policy bill after rejecting attempts by Democrats to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to repeal the war powers President Barack Obama relies on to fight the Islamic State (ISIS).


The legislation, which authorizes military spending for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, seeks to halt a decline in the combat readiness of the U.S. armed forces by purchasing more weapons and prohibiting further cuts in troop levels. But in a 17-page statement on the policy bill, the White House detailed its opposition to numerous provisions and said Obama would veto the legislation if it reached his desk.

The bill, approved 277-147, must be reconciled with a version the Senate is expected to consider by month's end.

Republicans shot down an amendment by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to strike parts of the bill that renew a longstanding ban on moving Guantanamo detainees to the United States. The embargo has kept Obama from fulfilling a campaign pledge to shutter the facility. The White House said the restrictions interfere with the executive branch's authority to decide when and where to prosecute prisoners.

The House soundly defeated an amendment authored by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., to revoke a 2001 authorization that Congress gave President George W. Bush to attack any countries or groups involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Obama is relying on that nearly 15-year-old authority to send U.S. troops into combat against ISIS.

Lee argued it's long past time for Congress to grant new war powers that specifically approve the nearly two-year-old campaign. "I am extremely disappointed that my colleagues left a blank check for endless war on the books," she said.

But opponents of her amendment said no new authorization should be granted until Obama produces a coherent strategy for defeating the extremist group. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Obama has all the authority he needs and Lee's amendment would "unilaterally end the fight" against ISIS.

The bill included a provision that Democrats said would overturn an executive order issued by Obama that bars discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, called the measure "taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT individuals" and cited it as one the reasons he refused to support the bill.

But Republicans said the measure is primarily a restatement of part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. "It's one paragraph. That's it," said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "I just get this feeling personally that there may be those who are just looking for an excuse to vote against the bill."

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