The Senate passed the 2012 defense authorization bill 86 to 13 on Thursday, sending the mammoth $662 billion bill that contains controversial detainee provisions to President Obama’s desk.
Just before the House passed the bill by a comfortable margin on Wednesday, the White House dropped its threat to veto the legislation that requires mandatory military custody for suspects linked to al-Qaida or its affiliates, even if they are captured in the U.S. “I’m now confident this bill [will be] signed into the law by the president of the United States,” the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, John McCain of Arizona, said on the Senate floor.
The White House said it had determined the compromises lawmakers made during conference committee were sufficient and the bill would not impede the administration’s ability to pursue the war on terror.
House and Senate leaders added written assurances the legislation would not affect existing criminal enforcement and national security waivers of the FBI or any other domestic law enforcement agency. They also gave the president the authority to waive the military-detention provisions, and dropped language requiring military tribunals for all cases.
Many Democrats and human rights groups have decried the bill’s language that would allow indefinite detention for suspected terrorists without a trial -- including Americans arrested in the U.S. Supporters of the detainee provisions argued the bill merely codifies existing law as it applies to Americans and legal resident aliens, as they retain the right to challenge their detention in court.