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House Passes Defense Bill, Rejecting Gitmo Closure And Military Amnesty

In defiance of the Obama administration’s threatened veto, the House passed the $612 billion dollar defense bill on Friday morning by a vote of 269 to 151.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 skirts budget caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 by placing $89.2 billion dollars in Overseas Contingency Operations, an emergency war fund exempt from normal limits, The Associated Press reports. Base-level defense spending is slated at $515 billion, in addition to $7.7 billion of required spending. Summed together, this totals $611.9 billion, the amount requested by President Barack Obama.

Many members of Congress reluctantly dragged out the OCO as a tactic after finding it difficult to muster enough support to kill sequestration. The Obama administration, too, urged Congress not to rely on the war fund and criticized the budget for not including administration priorities like the retirement of the A-10 aircraft fleet and further base closures. Also drawing the administration’s ire was Congress’ refusal to accept a proposal which would have shuttered Guantanamo Bay by 2017. The amendment to the defense bill failed on Thursday evening by a vote of 174-249, The Hill reports.

“It doesn’t fix the problem,” Democratic Rep. Adam Smith said, referring to the budget. “The president has promised to veto all the appropriations bills and the defense bill that are based on this flawed approach to the budget. So what we are doing here is ultimately not going to be successful until we come up with a better long-term solution to dealing with the budget caps.”

What’s also notable about the final version of the bill which just passed is that it does not include Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego’s controversial amendment directing the Secretary of Defense to reassess whether bringing in recipients of Obama’s DACA initiative to the military bolsters national security. That amendment was stripped late on Thursday night after considerable opposition from Republicans, with a few notable exceptions like GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, who tried to persuade his colleagues not to support Rep. Mo Brooks’ counter-amendment to nullify Gallego’s proposal. (RELATED: Republicans Gear Up For A Clash With Democrats Over Funneling Illegals Into Military)

Coffman was ultimately unsuccessful. A 221-202 vote killed any possibility of military amnesty for illegal immigrants, though 20 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against Brooks’ counter-amendment.

The defense bill has passed through Congress 53 years in a row.

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