WASHINGTON -- The White House Thursday handed out its first veto threat since President Barack Obama won reelection when advisers warned that they would counsel the commander-in-chief to nix the defense bill currently on the floor of the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The White House warned that the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 breaks from the president's budget request, limits his ability to pursue his defense strategy and trespasses on his power.
Among the issues the president's Office of Management and Budget singled out were some of the controversial military detainee provisions, although it did not take issue with language passed in last year's bill that lets the military hold American civilians without trial.
Instead, the White House complains about ongoing restrictions on its ability to transfer prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison base for terrorism suspects, which are reasserted in section 1031 on the bill.
"When he signed past versions of this legislation, the President objected to the restrictions carried forward by section 1031, promised to work towards their repeal, and warned the Congress that the restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries would in certain circumstances interfere with constitutional responsibilities committed to the Executive Branch," said a statement of administration policy.
"Since these restrictions have been on the books, they have limited the Executive's ability to manage military operations in an ongoing armed conflict, harmed the country's diplomatic relations with allies and counterterrorism partners, and provided no benefit whatsoever to our national security," the statement said.
The restriction stemmed from debates in recent years over both transferring terrorist suspects to the United States and sending them back to their homes where some have rejoined terrorist groups.
"The administration also continues to oppose the prohibition on funding to construct, acquire or modify a detention facility in the United States to house any individual detained at Guantanamo, which shortsightedly constrains the options available to military and counterterrorism professionals to address evolving threats," the White House said, dubbing the restrictions "misguided when they were enacted."
Civil liberties advocates agree that suspects can be brought to the United States and tried in civilian courts, but many remain disappointed that Obama did not veto last year's NDAA, which codified the right of the executive to hold any terrorism suspect in military custody without trial.
Obama signed it into law, but pledged not to detain anyone caught in the United States indefinitely.
Senators are trying to undo that aspect of the law in this year's bill.
The administration also objected to a number of other provisions in the legislation, including a measure that undoes some cost savings for military health care; restrictions on getting rid of unwanted planes; cuts to the civilian military workforce; a restriction on the Defense Department's use of alternative fuels; restrictions on European missile defense work; curbs on payments to Pakistan the the White House deems essential, and provisions to pay for advanced fighters and tanks that the military does not want.
The White House supports a section that ensures women in the service have access to abortion services in cases of rape or incest, and can pay for abortions on their own in other cases.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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