News / USA

Obama Approves Defense Bill Despite Veto Threats

U.S. President Barack Obama looks at his notes during remarks to reporters after meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in Washington, December 28, 2012.U.S. President Barack Obama looks at his notes during remarks to reporters after meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in Washington, December 28, 2012.
x
U.S. President Barack Obama looks at his notes during remarks to reporters after meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in Washington, December 28, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama looks at his notes during remarks to reporters after meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in Washington, December 28, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a $633 billion defense bill into law, despite threats by the White House to veto the legislation because it hinders efforts to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The president expressed reservations about the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 after signing it late Wednesday in Hawaii, but said he could not stand in its way.

“Our constitution does not afford the president the opportunity to approve or reject statutory sections one by one.  I am empowered either to sign the bill, or reject it, as a whole.  In this case, though I continue to oppose certain sections of the Act, the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.

The bill tightens sanctions on Iran and boosts security at diplomatic missions around the world – two priorities for the Obama administration, which is trying to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear pursuits and is grappling with the aftermath of a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

But the new law also includes two provisions that complicate the president's pledge to close the Guantanamo detention center.

Obama said he continues to oppose a provision that renews the bar against using appropriated funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States. He also objected to a provision that restricts the executive branch’s authority to transfer detainees to a foreign country.

“The Congress designed these sections, and has here renewed them once more, in order to foreclose my ability to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” Obama said. “I continue to believe that operating the facility weakens our national security by wasting resources, damaging our relationships with key allies, and strengthening our enemies.”

The president signed an executive order shortly after taking office in 2009 promising to close the prison whose long detention of terrorism suspects, often without charge or trial, has become a stain on the U.S. human rights record. But that agenda was pushed back as Obama grappled with health care reform, the economic crisis and instability in the Middle East.

Most of the prisoners held at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay were captured in Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Of the nearly 800 detainees held there, about 170 remain as the U.S. grapples with how to prosecute, release or hold them.

Human Rights Watch criticized the president Wednesday for not doing more to fulfill his pledge to close the facility.

“The administration blames Congress for making it harder to close Guantanamo, yet for a second year President Obama has signed damaging congressional restrictions into law,” said Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel and advocate at Human Rights Watch. “The burden is on Obama to show he is serious about closing the prison.”

The New York-based rights group said Obama did have a choice, and that if he vetoed the 2013 defense bill, last year’s bill would still be in effect.

The new legislation sets the defense agenda for the year and authorizes spending amounts for different programs but does not appropriate the money.

The bill approves the allocation of $528 billion to the Defense Department, $17 billion to the Energy Department's defense and nuclear programs and $88 billion for overseas contingency operations, including the war in Afghanistan.
 
It calls for as many as 1,000 additional Marines to be deployed to embassies and consulates around the world.

The sanctions targeting Iran focus on the country's energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors in an effort to pressure the government to stop enriching uranium, a key component in nuclear weapons.

The defense bill also approves a pay rise for military personnel and eases restrictions on disseminating material from the Broadcasting Board of Governors within the United States, including content from the Voice of America.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs