Obama signs bipartisan budget deal, annual defence bill

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President Barack Obama on Thursday signed a compromise budget that reduces the risk of another government shutdown and a defence bill that cracks down on sexual assault in the military and smooths the path for transferring detainees from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The two-year U.S. budget agreement, negotiated by Congress earlier this month, and the National Defence Authorization Act for fiscal 2104 were among seven pieces of legislation signed by Obama, who is vacationing with his family in Hawaii.

The U.S. Senate passed the budget deal on December 18 to ease automatic spending cuts and reduce the risk of a government shutdown. It was negotiated by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state and Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Obama at that time praised the measure – the first budget agreed to by a divided Congress since 2009 – saying it was “a good first step away from the short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making that has only served to act as a drag on our economy.” He did not comment further on Thursday.

The Senate approved the annual defence policy bill on December 20, one of its final actions before leaving for the Christmas break.

The act authorizes a Pentagon base budget of $526.8 billion in the 2014 fiscal year. That amount will have to be reconciled early in the New Year with the $498 billion agreed to in the budget deal.

The wide-ranging bill also included several measures to reform the way the military justice system responds to sexual assaults among members of the military and boosts the Pentagon’s ability to help destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

The bill also makes it easier for the White House to transfer prisoners from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to countries willing to accept them.

 

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