House clears path for DOD Authorization bill

The House approved a revised version of the fiscal 2008 Defense Authorization bill earlier this week.

Representatives modified the bill after President Bush effectively vetoed the measure last month. It now awaits the return of the Senate next week for a final vote before it goes back to Bush.

The authorization measure would provide for $641 billion in Defense Department spending for 2008, including $142 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bill is substantially the same as the one Bush refused to sign last month, including its provisions for changes in the National Security Personnel System, new procurement rules and an across-the-board military pay raise.

The modifications to the bill, drafted Jan. 15 by the House Armed Services Committee, changed the language to exclude Iraq from a provision that would allow Americans to sue countries that provide material support to terrorism in U.S. courts. The provisions could have been used to hold Iraq’s current government liable for activities sponsored by the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The White House had objected to the original language in Section 1083 of the measure, saying that the provision could potentially freeze as much as $25 billion in Iraqi assets held in U.S. financial institutions and damage reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

A senior administration official told reporters in a call late last month that the veto came “because particular provisions included in that bill unacceptably interfere with the political and economic progress everyone agrees is critically important to bringing our troops home.”

The new language retains provisions for citizens to seek damages from states that have sponsored terrorism, However, it specifically excludes Iraq, giving the president the power to waive the Section 1083 measures in respect to claims against Iraq for terrorist acts that occurred before the date of enactment.

Additionally, nonbinding language was added to the bill, urging the president to work with the Iraqi government to compensate Saddam's victims.

Congressional aides said that the changes are expected to satisfy the White House, and that Bush should sign the bill.

Sean Gallagher writes for Defense Systems, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Sean Gallagher is senior contributing editor for Defense Systems.

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