On December 28, the President announced that he was withholding support from H.R. 1585, the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. Also known as a “pocket-veto,” the President may abstain from signing or vetoing a bill presented to him by Congress. If Congress is not in session following the 10 day period that the President has to act, which prevents the return of the bill to Congress for a veto override vote, the bill does not become law. This is the first time a pocket-veto has been used by the President since George H.W. Bush during the 101st and 102nd Congresses.
This pocket veto, however, will trigger a constitutional debate once Congress returns to session next week. While the House is adjourned, the Senate is technically in session – pro forma session. House Democrat leaders argue that because the Senate is in session, the President cannot pocket-veto the bill. According to the Constitution, if the President does not act on a bill, but Congress is in session, the bill automatically becomes law. The President, however, argues that since the defense authorization bill originated in the House, which is adjourned, he is free to use a pocket-veto.
According to various reports, the President opposes provisions in the defense authorization bill that would allow lawsuits against Iraqis for acts committed when Saddam Hussein was in power to move forward in U.S. courts. Those lawsuits could undermine the authority and legitimacy of the Iraq’s new government.
The House of Representatives voted to remove the provision in the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act that triggered a presidential of the bill last month. The President opposed a provision that would allow lawsuits against Iraqis for acts committed when Saddam Hussein was in power to move forward in U.S. courts. Instead of attempting to override the veto, House leaders opted to strike the provision, which passed by a vote of 369-46. The clean bill now returns to the Senate for consideration next week.
The U.S. Senate passed the new version of the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act today by a vote of 91-3. The President has signaled his support for the bill, which now exempts Iraqis from lawsuits for acts committed when Saddam Hussein was in power, and is expected to sign it in the coming days.
The President officially submitted his FY 2009 budget request to Congress. The defense budget request $515 billion for Department of Defense programs (a 7.5 percent increase from FY 2008), plus an additional $70 billion supplemental request for current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, the President’s budget provides $149 billion for military pay and health care; $158 billion for Operations, Readiness and Support; $184 billion for Strategic Modernization; and $24 billion for Family Housing and Facilities.
For a copy of the Department of Defense Budget Justification, please visit our defense budget page at www.crows.org.