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Bush to veto defense policy bill

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By Michelle Malkin  •  December 28, 2007 12:40 PM

Hmmm. This is an interesting development. Dems have been caught off guard (via USAT):

The White House just announced that President Bush intends to veto a major defense policy bill, citing concerns over language that it claims could endanger Iraqi assets held in U.S. banks.

In a written statement just released, White House deputy press secretary Scott Stanzel says the measure “would significantly amend current law (the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act) in ways that would imperil Iraqi assets held in the United States, including reconstruction and central bank funds.”

A provision in the measure “would permit plaintiffs’ lawyers immediately to freeze Iraqi funds and would expose Iraq to massive liability in lawsuits concerning the misdeeds of the Saddam Hussein regime. The new democratic government of Iraq, during this crucial period of reconstruction, cannot afford to have its funds entangled in such lawsuits in the United States. Once in place, the restrictions on Iraq’s funds that could result from the bill could take months to lift, and thus Section 1083 cannot become law even for a short period of time,” Stanzel says in the statement.

Politico adds:

The veto startled Democratic congressional leaders, who believe Bush is bowing to pressure from the Iraqi government over a technical provision in the bill. The veto was unexpected because there was no veto threat and the legislation passed both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly.

Democratic leaders say the provision in question could easily be worked out, but in vetoing the massive defense policy bill, military pay raises may be on hold, as well as dozens of other programs.

“We understand that the president is bowing to the demands of the Iraqi government, which is threatening to withdraw billions of dollars invested in U.S. banks if this bill is signed,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), in a joint statement. “The administration should have raised its objections earlier, when this issue could have been addressed without a veto.”

A White House spokesman said the veto would officially be delivered later today.

Hate to come anywhere near siding with the Dems, but it does strike me as odd that the White House wouldn’t have signaled its opposition to the provision so it could be fixed before the bill passed. There has to be more back story here.

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