Using words such as “abhorrent,” “disgusting” and “dumbfounded,” 13 Republican lawmakers who have served in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan excoriated President Obama on Thursday for vetoing a defense policy bill over an issue they say isn’t even in the bill.
“We’re not vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act because of some policy difference that relates to defense but because we want more spending on social programs, we want more spending for the EPA, for the IRS, for name your program that the president wants more money for,” Rep. Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineBill Nye promotes infrastructure, social spending bills with Biden NASA can facilitate the commercial space station race SpaceX all-civilian crew returns to Earth, successfully completing 3-day mission MORE (R-Okla.) said. “That is abhorrent.”
The lawmakers joined the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees minutes before Obama exercised his veto power and called on their colleagues in Congress to override the veto.
At issue is this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Obama and most Democrats oppose the bill because it puts $38 billion into a war fund as a way of circumventing budget ceilings on Pentagon spending.
Republicans argue the veto is misplaced because the NDAA is a policy bill, not an appropriations bill.
The lawmakers who spoke Thursday repeatedly said the veto tells U.S. troops that they don’t have the support of their commander in chief. Those same troops also won’t get pay and benefits without the bill, the lawmakers said.
“If they’re willing to defend this country — unfortunately potentially to their death, as we’re reminded by what happened today in Iraq — shouldn’t we be willing as members of Congress to put partisanship aside and as the president put partisanship aside and do the right thing for them,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said, referring to the first U.S. combat death against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he’s heard from many Democrats who are uncomfortable with the president’s veto and is hopeful the House will vote to override it on Nov. 5.
The House passed the bill with 270 votes, but overriding the veto would require 290.
If the veto isn’t overridden, he said, there are about 40 military authorities that will expire.
“There is no guarantee that the bill is going to magically reappear,” Thornberry said about what would happen if the veto were sustained. “We don’t know."
The other lawmakers at the press conference were Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPoll: Sinema approval higher among Arizona Republicans than Democrats Meghan McCain: COVID-19 battle made me doubt if nation will recover from pandemic Biden's year two won't be about bipartisanship MORE (R-Ariz.), Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSenate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Sunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Senate's antitrust bill would raise consumer prices and lower our competitiveness MORE (R-Ark.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Joe Heck (R-Nev.), Steve Russell (R-Okla.), Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio).