“New” Defense Policy Bill Passes:

Both the House and Senate have now passed a slightly revised 2008 defense authorization bill and sent it off to the White House Jan. 22. The measure originally went to President Bush in mid-December, but he kicked it back because of a provision that dealt with claims against countries that are or have been state sponsors of terrorism. The Administration belatedly expressed concern that the new Iraqi government’s assets in the US might be tied up in litigation that would take months to unravel and could jeopardize political and economic progress in Iraq. To get around this, Congress has given the President the authority to grant a waiver to Iraq, if he feels it would benefit US national security. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that the waiver applies only to Iraq. Levin noted, too, that lawmakers made the military pay raise and bonuses retroactive to Jan. 1 to “ensure our men and women will not lose a penny as a result of the delayed enactment of this bill.” His counterpart in the House, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) praised the bipartisan effort that produced the new bill, which he said deviated from the original only in the terrorism claims section and the retroactive pay and benefits provisions. Skelton called the legislation “the best defense bill in decades,” citing its call for regular roles and missions reviews as “one of the most important elements.”