two articles: on the defense bill and on the budget bill

13 Dec

House and Senate agree on the defense bill.  Bracketed notes mine, the rest is all from the AP article.  Bolding/italics mine.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is pressing ahead with a massive $662 billion defense bill that requires military custody for terrorism suspects linked to al-Qaida, including those captured within the U.S. Lawmakers hope their last-minute revisions will satisfy President Barack Obama and erase a veto threat.

Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees announced late Monday that they had reached agreement on the policy-setting legislation that had gotten caught up in an escalating fight on whether to treat suspected terrorists as prisoners of war or criminals.

Responding to personal appeals from Obama and his national security team, the lawmakers added language on national security waivers and other changes that they hoped would ensure administration support for the overall bill….

Overall, the bill would authorize $662 billion for military personnel, weapons systems, national security programs in the Energy Department, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Reflecting a period of austerity and a winding down of decade-old conflicts, the bill is $27 billion less than Obama requested and $43 billion less than Congress gave the Pentagon for the year before.

[This is still more than the rest of the world combined spends on military operations.]

The legislation would impose tough new sanctions on Iran, targeting foreign financial institutions that do business with the Central Bank in Tehran. Levin said the negotiators made some changes to address concerns of the Treasury Department, but he said the legislation is “96 percent” of what the Senate had unanimously backed.

One of the measure’s chief sponsors welcomed the results. “Moving forward, the Congress will need to be more vigilant than ever before in holding the administration’s feet to the fire to collapse the Central Bank of Iran and force international financial institutions to choose between doing business in the U.S. and doing business in Iran,” said Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

[Collapse the Central Bank of Iran?  This is blatant financial terrorism of a sovereign nation.  And I hate to tell you, but China and Russia will choose Iran over the US.]

…The lawmakers said they hoped the House and Senate could vote on the final bill by Thursday and send it to the president.

The issue of how to handle captured terrorist suspects has divided Obama’s senior national security officials and Congress, as well as Democrats and Republicans.

The administration insists that military, law enforcement and intelligence officials need flexibility in prosecuting the war on terror. Obama points to his administration’s successes in eliminating Osama bin Laden and radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Republicans counter that their efforts are necessary to respond to an evolving, post-Sept. 11 threat, and that Obama has failed to produce a consistent policy on handling terror suspects.

[I am sickened by how frequently the apparently soulless Obama brags about his assassination program.  He invaded Pakistan to “get” bin Laden and had him murdered rather than bring any charges against him, and he had the American citizen al Awlaki (and his teen-aged son and several other relatives) assassinated by drone-bomb rather than bring him to trial with legal charges as required by the Constitution.  This is not something to brag about, unless you have completely eliminated the idea of the rule of law from your thinking and no longer affiliate yourself with the human race.]

The bill would require that the military take custody of a suspect deemed to be a member of al-Qaida or its affiliates who is involved in plotting or committing attacks on the United States, with an exemption for U.S. citizens.

Responding to appeals from Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert Mueller, the lawmakers added a provision that says nothing in the bill will affect “existing criminal enforcement and national security authorities of the FBI or any other domestic law enforcement agency” with regard to a captured suspect, “regardless of whether such … person is held in military custody.”

[I assume this means that a US citizen can be held indefinitely, just not necessarily by the military.  Which is in opposition to the opening paragraph of this article.  This discrepancy is not explained.]

The bill also says the president can waive the provision based on national security. Originally that authority rested with the defense secretary.

House and Senate negotiators dropped several of the provisions in the House bill that also had drawn a veto threat, including the requirement of military tribunals for all cases…

The legislation would deny suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens seized within the nation’s borders, the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention. The lawmakers made no changes to that language.

[Yes.  It does mean American citizens may be held indefinitely, without the right to trial.  Better wake the fuck up, America.]

The revisions weren’t sufficient for at least one civil rights group. “The so-called ‘changes’ to the detainee provisions that came out to conference are cosmetic at best,” said Raha Wala of Human Rights First. “They do little to fix the underlying problems with the bill. The president has no choice now but to veto, both for the sake of our national security and the rule of law.”

The bill would go after foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank by barring them from opening or maintaining correspondent operations in the United States. It would apply to foreign central banks only for transactions that involve the sale or purchase of petroleum or petroleum products.

[I.e., China and Russia, with whom Iran trades oil on the Tehran bourse, off the dollar.  We are pushing them into choosing sides, when the truth is, they don’t need us for oil, so who do ya think they’d choose?  We, however, need Iran for oil.  I should think it would occur to us that we are looking at either a sudden extreme jump in the price of gas, or WW111, depending on how far we push this.  But maybe that’s the plan.  I see we took out the language about “all transactions” – we don’t want to impede importation of Chinese i-shits to Walmart and such.  Plus, we kind of owe China a lot of money.]

The petroleum penalties would only apply if the president, in six months, determines there is a sufficient alternative supply and if the country with jurisdiction over the financial institution has not significantly reduced its purchases of Iranian oil. It also allows the president to waive the penalties based on national security.

[I think I see where we are going here.  We need the Transcanada pipeline.  It’s a “national security issue”.  We need more drilling here.  We need to tear the Rocky Mountains out by the roots to get at whatever is under them.  Damn the Gulf of Mexico, full speed ahead.]

In a reflection of the uneasy relationship between the United States and Pakistan, the bill would freeze some $700 million in assistance until Pakistan comes up with a strategy to deal with improvised explosive devices.

[Ah, we decided to include Pakistan in this.  Good move, aces.  Let’s piss off our allies while we’re annoying everyone on the planet, just for the hell of it.  And Pakistan is already trying to deal with IED’s – they are trying to get us to remove the fucking CIA from their country.  It’s a good start on any number of issues.  We have some nerve doing this a few days after killing two dozen of their military, “by accident”, in a bombing of one of their military bases that lasted for over two hours.]

And now let’s do the same thing with another AP article from this morning.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a weekend deadline to avoid a government shutdown, a combative Congress appears on track to advance a massive $1 trillion-plus year-end spending package that curbs agency budgets but drops many policy provisions sought by GOP conservatives.

Lawmakers reached a tentative agreement Monday on the measure. It chips away at the Pentagon budget, foreign aid and environmental spending but boosts funding for veterans programs and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

[By all means, chip away at environmental spending.  Who needs the environment?  Not like it surrounds us or sustains us or anything.  And we sure need to modernize that nuclear arsenal, by golly.  Never know when you might want to use the largest nuclear arsenal in the world on someone.  So much for the intent of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.]

The measure generally pleases environmentalists, who succeeded in stopping industry forces from blocking new clean air rules and a new clean water regulation opposed by mountaintop removal mining interests. House Republicans appeared likely to win concessions that would roll back administration efforts to ease restrictions on Cuban immigrants on traveling to the island and sending cash back to family members there.

[Environmentalists, clearly, are way too easily placated.  Republicans still hate Cuba.]

On spending, the measure implements this summer’s hard-fought budget pact between President Barack Obama and Republican leaders. That deal essentially freezes agency budgets, on average, at levels for the recently completed budget year that were approved back in April.

[These budgets have been frozen or repeatedly lowered for the past three years.  But let’s take pains to avoid mentioning that.]

Drafted behind closed doors, the proposed bill would provide $115 billion for overseas security operations in Afghanistan and Iraq but give the Pentagon just a 1 percent boost in annual spending not directly related to the wars. The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget would be cut by 3.5 percent. Foreign aid spending would drop and House lawmakers would absorb a 6 percent cut to their office budgets…

[Oh, so the “chipping away at the Pentagon budget” really means they only get a 1% increase, but the EPA actually did get a cut.  Funny wording there.  I see how you did that.  Clever monkeys.]

A House vote is expected Thursday and the Senate is likely to follow in time to meet a midnight Friday deadline before a stopgap funding measure expires…

On spending, the measure generally consists of relatively small adjustments to thousands of individual programs. Agencies like the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will get a boost within the Homeland Security Department, while GOP defense hawks won additional funding to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. The troubled, over-budget, next-generation F-35 fighter plane program would be largely protected.

Democrats won a modest increase in funding for schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students.

[Democrats are easily placated, too.]



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