White House issues veto threats for first two GOP spending bills

The White House on Tuesday issued veto threats for two GOP-sponsored 2016 spending bills that are scheduled to hit the House floor by the end of the week.

The Office of Management and Budget said President Obama’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto bills funding military construction and veterans’ benefits as well as energy and water development “and any other legislation that implements the current Republican budget framework.”

Obama does not sign budget resolutions adopted by Congress, but must sign spending bills that stem from such a blueprint by Oct 1., when the next fiscal year begins.

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House GOP leaders have planned to hold votes this week on a $77 billion bill funding military construction projects and veterans’ benefits and a $35.4 billion bill funding energy programs and water development projects.

The veto threats come months before the deadline to fund the federal government for next year, but signal the looming spending fight between the GOP-controlled Congress and Obama.

Military construction and veterans’ benefits

The White House said the bill “fails” to fund building upgrades on military bases and and expansions to medical facilities used by veterans. While it provides $4.6 billion above the 2015 funding level, it’s $1.2 billion less than Obama’s request.

The administration said it also “strongly objects” to the use of the Pentagon’s war fund to pay for infrastructure investments. In their budget deal, which has yet to be released, House and Senate Republicans want to use the war fund to circumvent sequestration budget ceilings next year to boost defense spending.

“Shifting long-term defense costs to OCO [overseas contingency operations] is bad budget policy and bad defense policy, since it undermines long-term planning,” the White House said. “Moreover, the Administration has made clear that it will not accept attempts to fix defense without non-defense by using OCO as a mechanism to evade the defense budget cap.”

It also slammed a rider in the measure that prohibits the use of funds to be used to construct or expand a facility based in the United States to house prisoners currently held at the Guantánamo Bay prison.

Energy and water development

The White House said the bill “drastically underfunds” investments to develop clean energy and jobs that enhance economic competition. While the bill provides $1.2 billion above the 2015 level, it is $633 million below Obama’s request.

The administration blasted the measure for containing “highly problematic ideological riders” that include provisions that the White House claims undermine efforts to protect clean water.

Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee last week tried to remove those riders through the amendment process, but were unsuccessful. They might try again on the House floor this week.