Dec. 14, 2011 | Two of the East Bay's most liberal congress members registered a pair of stinging rebukes Wednesday morning for a massive $662 billion omnibus defense bill, which also includes controversial provisions allowing for the indefinite detaining of American citizens with suspected ties to terrorist organizations.
"This bill is fundamentally un-American and it threatens all of our liberties," Rep. Barbara Lee said Wednesday on the House floor. "This legislation undermines our national security and our democracy."
The defense package would fund military personnel, weapons systems, various national security programs and pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the beginning of the current fiscal year, which began last October.
The bill offered Monday also indicates a willingness by Washington to reduce spending. H.R. 1540 is $43 billion less than Congress approved last year and $27 billion less than the Obama administration had requested for this fiscal year.
The House of Representatives could vote on the bill as early as Thursday. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill in its current state.
Rep. Pete Stark called the bill "wasteful and dangerous legislation" in a speech Wednesday morning before the House.
"Every dollar we spend on war and weapons is a dollar we cannot spend on education, health care, infrastructure, or even deficit reduction," Stark said. "This bill does nothing to seriously rein in our defense budget."
Like Lee and other Democrats in the House, Stark took umbrage at language in the bill, they say, puts ordinary Americans at risk of detention.
Our Constitution does not permit the federal government to detain American citizens without charge or trial, nor does it give the military the authority to act in place of our justice system," said Stark. "And yet this legislation would codify into law the authority of the military to indefinitely detain suspected terrorists--- something never even seriously considered during the McCarthy-Cold War era. I could never support a measure that, in the name of security, violates Americans’ constitutional rights."
The defense bill before the House has not been without controversy. An earlier version of the legislation called for a ban on military chaplains performing gay marriages. Advocates of same-sex marriages called the attempt by Republican members to deny marriage "anti-gay." The passage was removed Tuesday.