House GOP urges Obama to drop veto threat against defense bill

House GOP urges Obama to drop veto threat against defense bill

House Republicans are urging President Obama to not follow through with a veto threat of a defense policy bill passed Wednesday night with the support of 40 Democrats. 

"This bill does a lot of important things to stand up for our troops, and that's why we call on the president to drop his veto threat and stand with our troops and give them the tools they need to continue fighting in a very dangerous time in our nation's history," Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Thursday at a press conference. 

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"I'm particularly grateful to the 40 Democrats who voted for the bill in spite of enormous pressure from their leadership not to," added Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. 

The bill would authorize $610 billion in Pentagon spending for 2017, with $551 billion for the Pentagon's base budget and $59 billion in war funding. 

However, the White House opposes a funding maneuver that could boost 2017 defense spending without a similar increase in non-defense spending. 

The bill would see about $18 billion from the war funding account shifted to the Pentagon's base budget to pay for more troops, training and maintenance, and weapons the services want. 

Doing so would leave the war funding account short $18 billion by April 2017, but Republicans expect the incoming administration will request more money upon taking office to make up he shortfall. 

The White House and Democrats call that plan a risky gamble and say it would blow up the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act that raised spending above budget caps for both defense and non-defense spending.

Thornberry said the bill is "perfectly consistent" with the deal, which set Pentagon funding at $610 billion for 2017. 

"We can give you a fair amount of documentation that proves that the agreement was a minimum level of overseas funding depending on the world situation," he said. 

The bill passed the House Armed Services Committee 60-2, with all but two Democrats opposing. 

"I'm not aware of any legislation anywhere with such broad support," Rep. Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonState Department faces mounting cyber threats A Department of Energy foundation: An idea whose time has come Tillerson’s No. 2 faces questions over State cyber closure MORE (R-S.C.) said at the conference. 

"The president should sign this deal, honor our men and women in uniform and not look to hold this bill hostage for increased domestic expenditures," added Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio).

The Senate Armed Services Committee has crafted a bill that would hew to the same numbers but would not shift $18 billion to the base budget.  

If the Senate bill passes, it would need to be meshed with the House bill before being sent to both chambers for final passage. 

"We'll see how that goes. Sen. [John] McCain has told me he wants to increase the funding while they're on the floor so as I say we'll take it a step at the time," Thornberry said.