Veto threat raised against any attempts to delay BRAC

By Megan Scully, CongressDaily

The Bush administration once again has threatened to veto the $441.6 billion fiscal 2006 defense authorization bill should it include provisions that weaken, delay or repeal the base-closure and realignment process under way, OMB officials wrote in a Statement of Administration Policy not yet made public.

The administration issued a similar warning shot this spring to the House, which strongly defeated all attempts to thwart the BRAC process. The administration "strongly opposes" the $376 million cut in BRAC funding proposed by the Senate Armed Services Committee because it would slow base-closure implementation and cost the department "more money over the long term," according to the seven-page document.

OMB officials also wrote that senior administration officials would urge President Bush to veto a bill that includes any amendments limiting the Defense Department's ability to buy products from foreign companies.

"Such amendments would harm U.S. companies and workers, as foreign governments would likely respond by restricting U.S. suppliers' access to their procurement markets," the document states.

In the policy statement, the administration also attempts to resist deep budget cuts in the Joint Tactical Radio System, the Transformation Satellite Program and Space-Based Radar, key development programs that have all experienced delays. In addition, the Bush administration warned that it would veto the authorization bill if it includes language that would in any way regulate the "detention, treatment or trial" of captured terrorists.

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., criticized Majority Leader Bill Frist's, R-Tenn., decision to file a cloture petition Friday afternoon to limit debate on the defense authorization bill so the Senate can take up legislation on gun manufacturers' liability or estate-tax legislation before the August recess begins.

"If this cloture petition is successful, those who support it are sending one message: They do not believe the Senate should debate the important national security issues that are very much on the minds of our troops, their families and the American people," Reid said. Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued that the body would have ample time to debate the defense bill by midweek.

"I don't know that it's written on some tablet somewhere that we need to spend multiple, multiple weeks on the [defense] authorization bill," McConnell said.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the cloture motion. If cloture is invoked, the body will have 30 more hours to consider only germane amendments, considerably limiting action on a bill that typically attracts hundreds of amendments over several weeks of debate. Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Va., said Friday he gave Frist the green light Thursday night to file the cloture petition and would accept responsibility if the move "was an error."

Debate on the bill continued today, with the Senate spending most of the morning deliberating an amendment to strip money for a feasibility study on the controversial Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator program. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., introduced an amendment to shift that money to the National Guard, while Warner opposed it.

"I assure my colleagues, I assure the American public that Congress is carefully monitoring each step of this program," Warner said.