House Dems to support spending bill despite Obama veto threat

House Democrats will support a GOP-backed spending bill despite President Obama's veto threat. 

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said Democrats would support a billl this week to fund military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs that Obama threatened on Monday to veto. 

Hoyer said Democrats support the military construction bill on its own merits, though he added Democrats would vote to sustain a veto if it ever got to the president’s desk and Obama used his veto pen.

“The [military construction] bill itself is a good bill,” he said. He added that he expected it to pass overwhelmingly after coming through the Appropriations Committee on a voice vote.
Hoyer, his party's chief vote counter in the House, said Democrats backed both the individual bill and the president’s strategy in vowing to veto it and other appropriations bills in the absence of a broader budget agreement this summer. Obama is opposed to the overall GOP budget framework that spares military spending but slashes social programs.

Democrats and the White House want Republicans to negotiate a budget agreement for fiscal 2014 that eliminates the sequestration spending cuts that took effect earlier this year.

The military construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill is traditionally the least controversial of the 12 appropriation bills. While Democrats support the legislation, they also oppose Republican attempts to make steep spending cuts in other departments to keep with an overall spending level consistent with sequestration.

Democrats also support the current version of an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security that will be on the floor later this week, Hoyer said. But Republican-backed amendments could lead them to oppose the final version, as happened in 2012.

Hoyer joined other Democratic leaders in calling for House Republicans to form a conference committee on the budget with Senate Democrats. GOP leaders have said they want a preliminary agreement with Democrats first, fearing the formal committee otherwise will be doomed to fail because of the wide policy gap between the parties.

Democrats have tried and failed to get a vote on legislation that would replace the sequester with tax increases on the wealthy, leading Hoyer to say that the House “is being precluded from working its will.”

He warned of a showdown between the parties when current funding for the federal government runs out at the end of September. 

“I am concerned that the inability of Republicans to come to agreement and compromise is going to lead us in September to a very rocky place, destabilizing our economy and undermining the confidence of our people,” Hoyer said.