A projected $85 billion in savings are located elsewhere in the deal, including increases in an airport security tax and a fee corporations pay to have pensions guaranteed by the government. Also included: a contentious provision to pare down annual cost of living increases in benefits for military retirees under age 62. Those cuts will save the government about $6.3 billion over a decade.
With lawmakers eager to leave town for the holidays and Republicans hoping to keep the focus on problems with Obama’s health care law, the deal passed with bipartisan support in both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House — despite opposition from tea party groups that lined up to oppose it, arguing the deal would raise spending.
The comprehensive defense bill Obama signed will give military personnel a 1 percent pay raise. It also covers combat pay, ships, aircraft and bases. Lawmakers also gave Obama a rare victory in his fight to close Guantanamo Bay, by lifting the most rigid restrictions on transferring detainees overseas as part of the defense bill.
In a statement Thursday, Obama said Congress had taken a positive step by lifting those restrictions, but protested other constraints Congress left in place, including a ban on transferring detainees to the U.S. for imprisonment, trial or medical emergencies. He said some of the remaining restrictions, in some circumstances, “would violate constitutional separation of powers principles.”
“I oppose these provisions, as I have in years past, and will continue to work with the Congress to remove these restrictions,” Obama said.
The signing of the defense bill capped a year-long campaign led by the women of the Senate to address the scourge of rape and sexual assault in the military, which the Pentagon estimates may have affected 26,000 members of the military last year.
Commanders will no longer be permitted to overturn jury convictions for sexual assault. The law also requires a civilian review when commanders decline to prosecute, requires dishonorable discharge or dismissal for those convicted, eliminate the statute of limitations for courts-martial in rape and sexual assault cases and criminalizes retaliation against victims who report an assault.
The bill provides $552.1 billion for the regular military budget and $80.7 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas operations, reflecting deficit-driven efforts to trim spending and the drawdown in Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting there.
Obama signed the two bills and several others in private, without reporters present, after an early-morning workout a nearby Marine Corps base. After signing the bills, Obama set off for a hike with his wife and daughters along a popular trail in Oahu leading to a 150-foot waterfall.