Dems let defense bill advance despite Obama veto threat
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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).

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Twenty-one Democrats broke ranks on the vote, siding with Republicans to let the bill advance. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Legislatures boost security after insurrection, FBI warnings Former Missouri senator says backing Hawley was 'worst mistake of my life' MORE (Ky.), who is running for president, was the only Republican to vote no. Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFlorida Republicans close ranks with Trump after Capitol siege Confirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (R-Fla.), another White House hopeful, missed the vote.

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 Mason ReidThe Memo: Democrats scorn GOP warnings on impeachment Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia The fight begins over first primary of 2024 presidential contest 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBoebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report Urgency mounts for new voting rights bill Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 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 Sidney McCainThe best way to handle veterans, active-duty military that participated in Capitol riot Cindy McCain on possible GOP censure: 'I think I'm going to make T-shirts' Arizona state GOP moves to censure Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake 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 DurbinSunday shows preview: Washington prepares for an inauguration and impeachment; coronavirus surges across the US Democrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial Schumer says Democrats will probe extremist groups after Capitol attack 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 CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial Capitol Police officer hailed as hero for drawing rioters away from Senate chamber Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect MORE Jr. (Pa.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty MORE (Ind.), -Dianne -Feinstein (Calif.), -Martin -Heinrich (N.M.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael Kaine'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics Robert E. Lee statue removed from US Capitol MORE (Va.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGoogle completes Fitbit acquisition Hillicon Valley: Fringe social networks boosted after Capitol attack | Planned protests spark fears of violence in Trump's final days | Election security efforts likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress US Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots MORE (Minn.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillFormer McCaskill aides launch PAC seeking to thwart Hawley Ex-GOP senator blasts Hawley's challenge to electoral vote count as 'highly destructive attack' Harrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment MORE (Mo.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezYear-end deal creates American Latino, women's history museums Lawmakers call for including creation of Latino, women's history museums in year-end spending deal Trump offered 0 million to terrorism victims to save Sudan-Israel deal  MORE (N.J.), -Chris -Murphy (Conn.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHawley pens op-ed to defend decision to object to electoral votes amid pushback Demolition at the Labor Department, too Hawley, Cruz face rising anger, possible censure MORE (Wash.), Gary -Peters (Mich.), Jeanne -Shaheen (N.H.),- Debbie -Stabenow (Mich.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency MORE (Mont.), Tom UdallTom UdallSenate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes We can achieve our democratic ideals now by passing the For the People Act Haaland nomination generates excitement in Native American communities MORE (N.M.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSocial media posts, cellphone data aid law enforcement investigations into riots 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Confirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed MORE (Va.). Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over MORE (Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, also voted to proceed.

— This story was last updated at 7:43 p.m.