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 PaulOvernight Health Care: Biden announces 1M have enrolled in special ObamaCare sign-up period | Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins | Biden vows to get 'more aggressive' on lifestyle benefits of vaccines Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls MORE (Ky.), who is running for president, was the only Republican to vote no. Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate votes to repeal OCC 'true lender' rule Democrats cool on Crist's latest bid for Florida governor Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls 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 ReidBottom line Biden's first 100 days is stylistic 'antithesis' of Trump The Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' 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 McConnellSenate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill Senate descends into hours-long fight over elections bill Republican governor of Arkansas says 'Trump is dividing our party' 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 McCainCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Ex-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds DOJ: Arizona recount could violate civil rights laws 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 DurbinSenate poised for all-day brawl over sweeping elections bill Biden-McConnell cold war unlikely to end at White House Amazon blocks 10B listings in crackdown on counterfeits 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 CaseyA historic moment to truly honor mothers Democrats face big headaches on Biden's T spending plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP makes infrastructure play; Senate passes Asian hate crimes bill MORE Jr. (Pa.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyRepublicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives MORE (Ind.), -Dianne -Feinstein (Calif.), -Martin -Heinrich (N.M.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHow leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction MORE (Va.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill Senate descends into hours-long fight over elections bill Senate poised for all-day brawl over sweeping elections bill MORE (Minn.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemings asked about Senate run after sparring with Jordan on police funding Republicans fret over divisive candidates Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP MORE (Mo.), Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats reintroduce legislation to ban 'ghost guns' Juan Williams: A breakthrough on immigration? Biden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 MORE (N.J.), -Chris -Murphy (Conn.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBiden's pre-K plan is a bipartisan opportunity to serve the nation's children Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (Wash.), Gary -Peters (Mich.), Jeanne -Shaheen (N.H.),- Debbie -Stabenow (Mich.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterAmericans for Prosperity launches campaign targeting six Democrats to oppose ending filibuster Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform MORE (Mont.), Tom UdallTom UdallStudy: Chemical used in paint thinners caused more deaths than EPA identified Oregon senator takes center stage in Democratic filibuster debate Bipartisan bill seeks to raise fees for public lands drilling MORE (N.M.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOvernight Defense: Former Pentagon chief to testify about Capitol riot Wednesday | Senate Intelligence chairman wants Biden to review US Space Command move Wyden: Funding infrastructure with gas tax hike a 'big mistake' Senate Intelligence chairman wants Biden to review US Space Command move MORE (Va.). Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenate panel deadlocks in vote on sweeping elections bill Senate descends into hours-long fight over elections bill Overnight Energy: 5 takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline attack | Colonial aims to 'substantially' restore pipeline operations by end of week | Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE (Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, also voted to proceed.

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