WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress sent President Barack Obama a $607 billion defense policy bill Tuesday that bans moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States – something Obama has been trying to do since he was sworn in as president.
The Senate’s 91-3 vote gave final legislative approval to the measure. The House overwhelmingly passed it last week, 370-58.
Obama does not like the Guantanamo provisions, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama will sign the bill.
Earnest said that Obama’s decision to sign the bill – because it includes provisions that are important to running and protecting the country – does not change his position about wanting to close the prison.
Obama vetoed an earlier version of the defense policy bill over a dispute, later resolved, about whether defense spending increases should be accompanied by boosts in domestic programs.
Among other things, the bill would:
• Provide a 1.3 percent pay increase to service members and a new retirement option for troops.
• Authorize lethal assistance to Ukraine forces fighting Russian-backed rebels.
• Extend a ban on torture to the CIA.
• Authorize the president’s request of $715 million to help Iraqi forces fight Islamic State militants.
“We all know the unfortunate and unnecessary roadblocks the defense authorization bill has faced this year. We all know that the president decided to veto the version of this bill we passed last month,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “We look forward to the president signing the bipartisan bill – along with its restrictions against bringing terrorists into the United States – into law.”
Three senators – Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Democrats from Oregon, and Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont – voted against the defense bill. GOP Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Dean Heller of Nevada and Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas did not vote.