The Defense Bill
December 15, 2011
Congress on Thursday passed a $662 billion defense bill. The measure next goes to President Obama for his signature. The Senate vote was 86 to 13. Sen. Bernie Sanders voted no. He objected to budgeting almost as much for the military as last year despite the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraq. He also opposed a provision that erodes civil liberties. After the Senate vote, he issued a statement explaining his stand:
"The bill continues to authorize heavy spending on defense despite the end of the 9-year-old war in Iraq. Ironically, the Senate vote came on the same day when Defense Secretary Panetta was in Baghdad officially declaring that our military mission there has ended and that virtually all of the combat troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year. At a time when we have tripled defense spending since 1997 and spend more today on defense than the rest of the world combined, I get concerned that my deficit-hawk friends say we've got to cut Social Security, Medicare, education, health care and other programs that help working families, but when it comes to defense spending the sky is the limit.
"This bill also contains misguided provisions that in the name of fighting terrorism essentially authorize the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens without charges. While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans."