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Senate Passes $662 Billion Defense Authorization

The Senate today sent President Barack Obama the $662 billion fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill, which takes one item off Congress’ to-do list before leaving for the holiday recess.

“While it authorizes $27 billion less than the president’s budget request and $43 billion less than the amount appropriated for fiscal 2011, I am confident that this conference report nevertheless provides adequate support for the men and women of the armed forces and their families and provides them with the means they need to accomplish their mission,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

“I am very pleased that the administration has finally realized that the language we have adopted merits the president’s signature and will soon be signed into law,” ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) said.

Approval on the measure, 86 to 13, came after the House passed the package Wednesday night, 283 to 136.

Passage also came after the White House lifted a veto threat amid changes that it said eased concerns that the bill would interfere with counterterrorism efforts. The White House was concerned with a provision requiring military, rather than civilian, courts to hold and try suspected terrorists. The White House wanted the option to also use law enforcement agencies and federal courts.

The White House lifted a veto threat of the measure hours before it was approved on the House floor. The legislation was almost derailed in the House when a handful of Republicans signaled they would vote against the measure over the detainee language. A last-minute effort by leadership was needed to assuage their concerns.

The Senate also approved the nomination of Morgan Christen 95 to 3 to join the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. His judicial nomination was the first to be approved by the Senate since the GOP-led filibuster of Caitlin Halligan last week. Halligan was nominated by Obama to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Congress appeared to be closing in on a deal to pass a package of the nine remaining annual spending bills, which need to be cleared before midnight Friday.

Negotiations were also under way on a package to extend the current payroll tax cut, which expires at the end of the year, and various other must-pass items.

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