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House Approves Defense Authorization

Early chaos gave way to a smooth passage of the defense authorization measure in the House tonight.

The $662 billion bill had drawn a veto threat from President Barack Obama, who lifted it before the House vote, and caused concern among a handful of Republicans who nearly derailed the measure from consideration on the floor. A last-minute effort by leadership to assuage concerns seemed to work, and the measure passed 283-136.

The White House lifted a veto threat of the conference report hours before it was approved on the House floor. The Obama administration had concerns over provisions relating to detainees, which also caused consternation among some Republicans who aired their grievances during a lengthy conference meeting.

According to one GOP aide, “A few Members wanted clarity about the legal ramifications of some of the language in the bill, and that clarity has been provided.”

In a statement announcing the end of Obama’s veto threat, spokesman Jay Carney said, “While we remain concerned about the uncertainty that this law will create for our counterterrorism professionals, the most recent changes give the president additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength.”

The measure now heads to the Senate and could be on the floor Thursday.

The bill bars the Defense Department from transferring certain detainees, including those in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States. It gives the executive branch power to determine whether a detainee should be tried in civilian or military court but requires that terrorism suspects linked to al-Qaida, including those captured within the U.S., be held in military custody.

The measure provides for a national security waiver the administration can use to get around that requirement, though.

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