Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Obama: earmarks merit vetoes, Guantanamo closure doesn't

Josh Gerstein

President Barack Obama plans to take a bold stand against earmarks in his State of the Union address, vowing to veto any bill that contains spending projects selected by individual lawmakers.

However, just a couple of weeks ago, Obama declined to veto a bill that he said contained a threat to U.S. national security.

In a statement on the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, Obama called the bill's ban on moving Guantanamo prisoners to the U.S. a "dangerous and unprecedented challenge to critical executive branch authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and the circumstances of each case and our national security interests."

"The prosecution of terrorists in Federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation and must be among the options available to us. Any attempt to deprive the executive branch of that tool undermines our Nation's counterterrorism efforts and has the potential to harm our national security," Obama said.

However, Obama went on to sign the legislation, citing "the importance of authorizing appropriations for, among other things, our military activities in 2011."

By promising to veto any spending bill, no matter how important, because it contains earmarks, he appears to be placing a greater importance on spending restraint than on defending his Guantanamo closure plan, which he and aides have repeatedly described as a national security imperative.

As president, Obama has vetoed only two bills: an electronic notarization bill that some said could worsen abuses in the foreclosure process, and a stopgap spending measure that was rendered unnecessary by other legislation.

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