White House says no veto of defense bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Wednesday abandoned its threat that President Barack Obama would veto a defense bill over provisions on how to handle suspected terrorists as Congress raced to finish the legislation.

Press secretary Jay Carney said last-minute changes that Obama and his national security team sought produced legislation that “does not challenge the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the American people.”

Based on the modifications, “the president’s senior advisers will not recommend a veto,” the White House said.

The statement came just moments after the House wrapped up debate on the $662 billion bill that would authorize money for military personnel, weapons systems, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and national security programs in the Energy Department in the budget year that began Oct. 1.

The House was expected to vote for the measure later Wednesday. The Senate planned to wrap up the bill in the evening and send it to Obama.

The White House had threatened a veto over the detainee provisions. Specifically, the bill would require that the military take custody of a suspect deemed to be a member of al-Qaida or its affiliates and who is involved in plotting or committing attacks on the United States. There is an exemption for U.S. citizens.

House and Senate negotiators announced late Monday that they had modified that provision. They added language that says nothing in the bill will affect “existing criminal enforcement and national security authorities of the FBI or any other domestic law enforcement agency” with regard to a captured suspect, “regardless of whether such ... person is held in military custody.”

The bill also says the president can waive the provision based on national security.

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