Legislation that would set the nation’s defense policy overcame a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday despite a veto threat from the White House.
Senators voted 73-26 to end debate on the $612 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The legislation is expected to pass by Thursday, which would send it to President Obama’s desk.
Republicans and the Obama administration are at odds over an extra $38 billion in war funding in the bill.
The money would not be subject to congressional budget caps, allowing Republicans to increase spending for the military while keeping the rest of the government under strict limits.
Democrats are demanding a repeal of all spending caps and have joined with Obama in rejecting all of the GOP’s appropriations bills until a deal is reached.
While a bloc of Democrats voted to advance the defense bill Tuesday, Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.) warned that some of those members would likely flip their votes if Republicans tried to override Obama’s promised veto.
“Our Democrats have stated without question if it comes time that we sustain a presidential veto, that will be done,” Reid said.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellStudy: Trump tops recent GOP presidents in signing bills in first 100 days Senate passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown Let’s never talk about a government shutdown — ever again MORE (R-Ky.) sought to pressure Democrats ahead of the vote, noting the 84-14 outcome during a similar procedural action earlier this year.
“The last time the Senate considered this legislation, 84 senators — including a large majority of Democrats — voted to advance it. That was just this summer,” McConnell said. “I urge Democrats to vote the same way now. Because we’ve heard some worrying rhetoric from across the aisle.”
Democrats remained tightlipped ahead of Tuesday’s vote on whether they would try to block the legislation from moving forward. A Senate aide told The Hill late last week that the focus was on preventing the legislation from getting the 67 votes needed to override a veto.
Sen. John McCainJohn McCainPoliticians absent from Thompson Reuters brunch McCain downplays threat of pre-emptive strike against North Korea McCain plan gains momentum amid North Korea threats MORE (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned Democrats against blocking the NDAA.
“If they want to sustain the veto, they’re responsible for the events that take place in the world, including [putting] the lives of the men and women serving in the military in much greater danger,” he said. “That will be their responsibility.”
Obama has threatened to veto every NDAA since he took office but never actually done so.
The administration says this year will be different because of the fight over war funding and the budget caps.
Should Obama reject the legislation, it would be the fifth veto of his presidency.
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should stand for consumers and repeal the Durbin Amendment Lawmakers reintroduce online sales tax bills Democrats exploring lawsuit against Trump MORE (D-Ill.) suggested that the legislative scuffle over the NDAA is “part of the negotiations.”
“Basically the president is negotiating, and if he vetoes this bill as he’s promised, we hope that he can sustain his veto to let the Republicans know we’re very serious about this,” he said. “If we’re going to have a good authorization bill completed, we need to have the [war fund] provisions out.”
While the president is under pressure from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and top advisers to veto the defense bill, rejecting the legislation could prove controversial.
The National Defense Authorization Act has passed Congress for 53 consecutive years, with lawmakers considering it a vital piece of legislation that sets priorities and policy for the military, including benefits and pay for service members.
Over the weekend, The Washington Post weighed in on the fight in an editorial, saying Obama should sign it.
“Refusing to sign this bill would make history, but not in a good way. Mr. Obama should let it become law and seek other sources of leverage in pursuing his legitimate goals for domestic sequestration relief,” the Post said.
The Democrats who voted Tuesday to advance the defense bill were Sens. -Michael -Bennet (Colo.), -Richard -Blumenthal (Conn.), -Maria -Cantwell (Wash.), Bob CaseyBob CaseyDems struggle with abortion litmus test Dems crowd primaries to challenge GOP reps GOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat MORE Jr. (Pa.), Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyDems struggle with abortion litmus test What prospective college students need to know before they go — or owe Battle begins over Wall Street rules MORE (Ind.), -Dianne -Feinstein (Calif.), -Martin -Heinrich (N.M.), Tim KaineTim KaineDemocrats exploring lawsuit against Trump Overnight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record Kaine, Schiff press Trump on legal justification for Syria strike MORE (Va.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharCNN hosts mingle at Correspondent's weekend lunch Dem labels infrastructure ‘top thing’ Trump can accomplish Wyden pushing to mandate 'basic cybersecurity' for Senate MORE (Minn.), Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillSeven key players for Trump on immigration Five takeaways from the Georgia special election Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups MORE (Mo.), Bob MenendezRobert MenendezTaiwan deserves to participate in United Nations The way forward on the Iran nuclear deal under President Trump Corruption trial could roil NJ Senate race MORE (N.J.), -Chris -Murphy (Conn.), Patty MurrayPatty MurrayDems, not trusting Trump, want permanent ObamaCare fix Senate confirms Labor Secretary Acosta Dems unveil bill targeting LGBT harassment on college campuses MORE (Wash.), Gary -Peters (Mich.), Jeanne -Shaheen (N.H.),- Debbie -Stabenow (Mich.), Jon TesterJon TesterDem senator to appear with Romney: report Battle begins over Wall Street rules Dems hunt for a win in Montana special election MORE (Mont.), Tom UdallTom UdallDems blast Trump's policies at Climate March IT modernization bill reintroduced in Congress Overnight Energy: Trump orders review of national monuments, claiming ‘egregious abuse’ MORE (N.M.) and Mark WarnerMark WarnerHollywood, DC come together for First Amendment-themed VIP party IT modernization bill reintroduced in Congress Want to grow the economy? Make student loan repayment assistance tax-free. MORE (Va.). Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingAngus King: Schumer is in a 'difficult place' Sunday shows preview: Trump plans next steps The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, also voted to proceed.
— This story was last updated at 7:43 p.m.