Vacationing Obama signs budget deal
On vacation in Hawaii, President Barack Obama has signed a bipartisan budget deal easing spending cuts and a defence bill cracking down on sexual assault in the military, marking a modest end to a challenging year for the White House and Congress.
The bill signing marks one of Obama's last official acts in a year beset by a partial government shutdown, a near-default by the Treasury, a calamitous health care rollout and near-perpetual congressional gridlock.
Although the budget deal falls short of the grand bargain that Obama and congressional Republicans once aspired to, it ends the cycle of fiscal brinkmanship — for now — by preventing another shutdown for nearly two more years.
The comprehensive defence bill Obama signed will give military personnel a 1 per cent pay raise and also covers combat pay, ships, aircraft and bases. But it was a year-long campaign led by the women of the Senate to address the scourge of rape and sexual assault in the military that dominated congressional debate over the military bill.
Commanders will no longer be permitted to overturn jury convictions for sexual assault, which the Pentagon estimates may have affected 26,000 members of the military last year. The law also requires a civilian review when commanders decline to prosecute, requires dishonourable discharge or dismissal for those convicted, eliminate the statute of limitations for courts-martial in rape and sexual assault cases and criminalizes retaliation against victims who report an assault.
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