Defense Authorization still ‘veto bait’

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

The Defense authorization bill has been passed by the House and is now in the Senate, but not before threats were made.

“It got interesting last week,” Jodi Schneider, congressional expert and Senior Editor in the Washington Bureau of the American Banker, told Federal News Radio.

Schneider said the bill became “veto bait,” garnering a threat from the White House because of language authorizing funding for a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter “and basically the Obama Administration’s position is that if this funding is included, it would be vetoed.” Defense Robert Gates said the engine is neither wanted or needed.

The Senate bill does not include the F-35 language, “so one would think that it would be the bill that would go forward, correct? Well, maybe not,” said Schneider. While both the House and Senate versions of the bill address the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, the Senate version, according to Schneider, may have more trouble passing. “It’s a highly partisan bill and did not get through even the committee in the Senate very quickly, very easily.”

Other controversial provisions in the Senate bill include pulling authority to fund construction in Thompson, Illinois replacing the prison at Guantamo Bay, cutting in half the money requested for Iraqi security forces, and the inclusion of an “amendment by Sen. John McCain that would require the Defense Secretary to send 6,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. This language was defeated as an amendment to the War Supplemental.”

Since the F-35 issue is almost guaranteed to not completely disappear, even with a veto threat, the issue is “not likely to go away anytime soon.”

Schneider noted there’s a big difference when it comes to Congress passing authorization and providing funding.

They like to pass appropriations bills in the Defense world. It is highly unlikely that the Congress will not pass these. These are the ones that get passed, even in a year like this where they’re going to hold off on a lot of the appropriations work until after the mid-term elections. One would presume that they’re going to work these things out and we’re going to see these bills passed, perhaps not until September, perhaps in July before they go on the August recess.

Schneider said during this Memorial Day recess, the Hill is still hard at work behind the scenes on the financial reg reform bill and fallout from the oil spill, saying “you know the committees involved with environment, many of those staffers are working hard this week too.”

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