GUAM – Lawmakers working on a House-Senate compromise for a critical annual Pentagon policy bill are aiming to file it as early as Monday in Washington, according to a story in The Hill. That outcome will directly affect the Pentagon’s ability to continue authorizing the buildup of Marine Corps facilities in Guam as part of the U.S.-Japan troop realignment agreement.
President Obama has worked to personally influence the House-Senate negotiations on the sweeping 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, primarily to lobby against certain Senate-backed provisions for terrorist-detainee practices. The White House has warned it will veto any legislation that “challenges or constrains the president’s authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the nation.”
Mr. Obama led a full-court press on the Senate last week, dispatching Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert Mueller to ask Senior senators for revisions to their bill.
The NDAA is expected to contain compromise versions of the terrorist-detainee provisions and several other hotly debated issues.
While it is not known whether the President or his cabinet have used this time with Senators to also weigh in on the Guam military buildup before 2012 Defense policy is finalized, their support of the program is well-known.
Even as the Senate has moved to freeze Marine Corps construction activity on Guam, saying the U.S. can no longer afford the buildup in its current form, the Obama Administration has made clear it sides with the House of Representatives, which asserts the buildup and fulfillment of the U.S.-Japan alliance agreement must move forward.
The conference needs to wrap up its business on the NDAA by early next week so Congress has time to approve it before adjourning for the holidays.
Monday in Washington may also be a big day for Defense appropriations. That’s the target set by a separate bicameral conference to finalize annual funding for the Federal Government.
Conferees are working to approve Defense appropriations as part of a $900 billion omnibus spending package for the government. Within that package, the House wants to give Guam $303 million for military construction, but the Senate wants to freeze $155 million in Marines Corps projects.
The House-Senate split over the Guam buildup is, however, dwarfed by bigger partisan issues. Republicans and Democrats have been butting heads over ideological policy riders to the omnibus bill and President Obama warned that certain riders that Republicans may push for – such as any policy to block environmental priorities – could be grounds for vetoing the bill.
Time is racing for this legislation, too, as the government is set to run out of money on Dec. 16 when the current budget extension expires.
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Photo used in this article courtesy the White House. Photo by Pete Souza, 12/9/11.