WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers will trim a sweeping defense policy bill to comply with a budget deal with the White House, but will not change language in the measure restricting efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said on Wednesday.
Republican U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry said he did not yet know exactly how the $612 billion National Defense Authorization Act would be trimmed to accommodate $5 billion in military spending cuts in the budget accord.
Lawmakers are due to begin voting on the deal later on Wednesday.
“It will be a $5 billion reduction in the spending that is authorized... I will vote for the budget agreement, but I don’t want anybody to think that this repairs the damage that has been inflicted on the military sequestration and cuts over the last four years,” he told reporters.
Beyond that, Thornberry said he did not expect changes in the bill that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, vetoed last week. That included language restricting transfers from the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center, which Obama said was one reason for his veto.
“We will not change it,” Thornberry said, paving the way for a potential showdown with the president, who has vowed to close the military prison before leaving office in January 2017.
Thornberry added that the NDAA provisions on Guantanamo are the “exact same language” Obama has signed into law in defense bills over the past five years.
He also noted that Obama has failed to provide a plan for closing Guantanamo as requested by Congress, a sore point for many Republican lawmakers.
Congressional aides and human rights activists said on Tuesday that the budget deal could complicate Obama’s push to close the controversial prison because it made it more likely that an NDAA with the Guantanamo provisions would become law.
The House is due to vote on whether to override Obama’s NDAA veto on Nov. 5. Thornberry said the legislation will be changed to reflect the budget deal whether or not the veto is sustained.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Alan Crosby