President Bush will veto the U.S. defense policy bill because it would derail Iraq's efforts to rebuild its country:
Mr. Bush's action, which apparently caught congressional leaders off guard, centers on one provision in the legislation dealing with Iraqi assets. The legislation 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," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.
"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," Stanzel said in a statement.
Congress passed the defense bill two weeks ago.
The bill does not send money to the Pentagon, but authorizes $696 billion in military spending, including $189 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the 2008 budget year. It aims to provide more help to troops returning from war and set conditions on contractors and pricey weapons programs.
The bill would authorize a 3.5 percent pay raise for service members. It would also guarantee that combat veterans receive mental health evaluations within 30 days of their request and prohibit fee increases to the military's health care system.The Democratic led Congress also used the bill to try and micro manage the nation's ballistic missile defense program. Congress authorized about $331 million less than requested for missile defense and restricted the money from being used to deploy missile defense radar in Poland and the Czech Republic until Congress received an independent assessment of the program.
In one provision likely to be costly, troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are guaranteed three more years of Veterans Affairs health care after being discharged.