Senators Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul along with 8 others voted against the National Defense Authorization Act
By Felicia Sonmez / Washington Post / Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2:41 PM
A sweeping defense bill that sparked a heated debate over the handling of terrorism suspects passed the Senate on Thursday afternoon and is headed to President Obama’s desk, bringing to an end weeks of wrangling that included a veto threat from the White House.
The $662 billion defense authorization bill was approved by the Senate on an 86 to 13 vote one day after the White House withdrew its threat to veto the measure over several controversial detainee provisions that it said infringed on its executive power. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House on Wednesday night on a 283 to 136 vote.
The bill had been revised by key lawmakers Monday after they held meetings with administration officials to address the White House’s concerns. The revised defense bill grants greater discretion to the White House over the implementation of the law and also grants waiver authority to the president rather than the secretary of defense.
Although Obama has lifted his veto threat, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday that he thinks there remains a lack of clarity on the cooperation between the military and civilian law enforcement when it comes to taking custody of terrorism suspects.
Civil liberties and human rights groups have urged Obama not to sign the measure, arguing that it would allow for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens.
Senators voting no Thursday spanned the ideological spectrum and included Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), James E. Risch (R-Idaho), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
The measure also would apply sanctions against Iran’s central bank in an effort to pressure Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons program and would freeze $700 million in U.S. aid to Pakistan. The bill calls for Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta to report to Congress on Pakistan’s progress in combating the use of makeshift bombs.