- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Three of the four previous presidents have vetoed defense authorization bills, despite claims by top Democratic senators that President Bush would be taking an unprecedented step by fulfilling his vow to veto this year’s version.

Two Democratic presidents, Carter and Clinton, and President Reagan, a Republican, all refused to sign into law defense authorization bills for various reasons.

“Clearly they haven’t bothered to check the historical record, which would show that they’re flat out wrong,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Mr. Bush has said he will veto the $648 billion defense authorization bill, which sets out Pentagon policy but does not actually spend the money, because of concerns over provisions in the bill.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose hate-crimes amendment is the most controversial part of the measure, said last week that “the president of the United States has never vetoed, in the history of the United States, a defense authorization bill.”

“For this reason and for many others … the defense authorization deserves to be passed [into law],” said Mr. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, backed Mr. Kennedy up, saying that “there has never, ever been a veto of the defense authorization bill.”

Mr. Reid’s office declined to comment on the majority leader’s statement.

Melissa Wagoner, Mr. Kennedy’s spokeswoman, said the senator “was referring to the fact that there’s been an authorization bill signed into the law for the past 30 years” and that she was “sorry for any confusion.”

Mr. Kennedy’s amendment, which has drawn the most attention, expands the scope of federal hate-crime statutes to homosexual and transgender people.

The White House says crimes against homosexuals already are against the law, and is concerned that the law could be used by homosexual groups to target churches and religious organizations that consider homosexuality a sin.

The White House also opposes a part of the bill that would grant increased rights to enemy combatants, and another that increases Congress’ authority to compel testimony from intelligence agencies.

The bill, which has passed both chambers of Congress but has not been finalized, is not one of the 12 appropriations bills that Mr. Bush has promised to veto because of spending levels, but it heightens the current showdown between Congress and the White House.

S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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