The head of the House Armed Services Committee is confident the House draft of the $612 billion defense policy bill will survive, despite growing opposition from Democrats.
“I think we’ll still pass it,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told The Hill after a GOP leadership press conference.
An aide to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said early Wednesday that she would oppose the fiscal 2016 national defense authorization act (NDAA) when it comes to the floor later this week because it funnels an additional $38 billion into the Defense Department’s war fund.
Democrats are fuming over the move, as it would break spending caps for the Pentagon, while the GOP’s overall budget road map leaves those caps in place for domestic spending.
“It’s really unfortunate because it has this tradition and history of bipartisan support in overwhelming numbers,” Thornberry said of the defense bill, touting the 60-2 vote that moved the NDAA out of committee earlier this month.
“We just haven’t seen somebody use it as pawns for some other agenda,” he added.
Thornberry also brushed off a veto threat from the White House issued late Tuesday night. The administration objected to the policy blueprint for a litany of reasons, including its price tag and language that would restrict President Obama’s ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo Bay.
“That’s what they usually do,” Thornberry said. “They point out this budget stuff, which is not our jurisdiction. Now on Gitmo and stuff, they always threaten that. That’s not anything new.”
The bill hit another potential stumbling block Wednesday morning as Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — House lawmakers eye military pay raise next year House lawmakers want military pay raise for enlisted troops Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Navy probe reveals disastrous ship fire response MORE (Wash.), the top Democrat on Armed Services, announced he would oppose the measure due to the increase to the war fund.
“I understand that finding a compromise to remove the caps has been elusive, but that does not justify the use of gimmicks to protect one part of the budget, and shortchange other portions that are vitally important to the future of our country,” he said in a statement.
Smith said this “short-term work-around does not enable the Department of Defense to undertake long term planning or provide the certainty that they can count on such funding in the future. I have great respect for Chairman Thornberry, but I cannot vote for this bill under these circumstances.”