US Lawmakers sent a clear warning to President Barack Obama about growing exhaustion over the war in Afghanistan on Thursday as they passed a defense policy bill authorizing $690 billion in military spending for the 2012 fiscal year reported Reuters on Thursday.
Members of the House of Representatives made two attempts to force a change in Obama's Afghan war strategy, falling just a few votes short on making him begin planning for a prompt withdrawal. A vote to bar U.S. troops on the ground in Libya passed nearly unanimously.
The votes came as the Republican-led House debated and passed the National Defense Authorization Act, 322-96, approving a $553 billion Pentagon base budget and $119 billion for overseas contingency operations, mainly the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The remaining $18 billion is for military-related nuclear activity at the Department of Energy.
A Senate panel was supposed to start work on the bill next month, but before President Obama signs into the law, both chambers must agree on the same legislation.
According to Reuters report, although the bill authorizes expenditures, it is primarily a means for Congress to set out defense policy. Actual spending levels are established by appropriations bills.
The policies approved as part of the bill were: A provision requiring that foreign terrorists detained by the United States be considered enemy combatants and tried in military tribunals rather than the civilian court system; A move to keep alive an alternate engine being developed by General Electric Co and Rolls- Royce Group for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which was eliminated by the Pentagon in a cost-cutting move; Conditions that would link implementation of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia to completion of the next generation of U.S. nuclear production facilities, which will not be finished until the mid-2020s; A proposal to eliminate the U.S. Institute of Peace, a congressionally funded institution that works to stabilize fragile states and end conflicts like the one in Afghanistan.
The bill has drawn a rejection threat from the White House because of its provisions on the New START treaty, the jet fighter engine and handling of terrorism suspects.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer criticized language in the bill that he said would dramatically expand the president's powers to use military force and attempt to reopen the repeal of a ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military. Still, Hoyer voted in favor of the measure.