On December 4, the U.S. passed the massive National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As well as authorizing $631 billion in spending, the bill included new sanctions against Iran and a permanent ban on transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S
An article in The Hill comments:The defense bill always enjoys broad bipartisan support, but the unanimous vote highlighted the lack of controversial issues this year that have made the bill sometimes divisive in past years.
Not a single senator objects to the massive defense spending even though all politicians constantly warn of the unsustainable debt levels. The senators end up all supporting further sanctions on Iran and a permanent ban on transferring any Guantanamo detainees to the U.S.
Finally they all have voted in favor of a bill with an amendment that is supposed to protect Americans arrested on U.S. soil from indefinite detention but the wording is so vague and ambiguous that some in favor of such detention voted in favor of the amendment on the grounds it would make such detention easier. The bill also authorized the continued occupation of Afghanistan.
This is only the second time the bill has passed unanimously in the last half century. When it comes to military spending and bashing Iran there is total bipartisanship but when it comes to dealing with budget cuts or raising taxes there are endless partisan battles between the Democrats and Republicans.
The bill will now be sent to a House-Senate committee where differences between the House and Senate bills must be resolved. The House bill has $3 billion more in spending than the Senate bill. Several policies in the House bill were also changed including restrictions on the military's use of bio-fuels and plans for a missile defense system on the east coast of the U.S. The House, with a Republican majority, also included in the bill items the Democrat-dominated Senate opposes, such as a ban on same-sex marriage ceremonies on military bases. On the other hand, the Senate bill also reverses policies that the Obama administration had requested in the Pentagon budget.
The Senate bill rolls back proposed cuts to the Air National Guard, and to TRICARE fee increases. The bill also prohibited funding for the Medium Extended Air Defense System but at the same time included funds to modernize the M1 Abrams tank that were not requested.
Obama has threatened a veto of the bill over changes made to the Pentagon's budget proposals. However a Republican house aide said that there was nothing in either bill that would keep the committee from resolving differences. The fiscal cliff ultimately will be avoided by a deal as well, since there is bipartisan disapproval of the cuts in the military that would automatically kick in if there is no deal and the country falls over the proverbial cliff.
Falling over the fiscal cliff would bring about debt reduction, praised by both parties as a marvelous thing. However, this would be offset by the cuts to military spending, which as passage of this bill shows, has even more support from both parties.
When reasons for avoiding the fiscal cliff are discussed, it is always because of the jobs that would be lost and the slowing of the economy and possible recession not the cuts to the military budget that are mentioned.
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