White House reminds Senate of defense veto threat

White House reminds Senate of defense veto threat
© Getty Images

The White House reissued a veto threat of the Senate's defense policy bill on Tuesday evening, as the chamber prepared to consider it. 

"If this bill were presented to the President, the President’s senior advisors would recommend to the President that he veto it," according to a statement from the White House's Office of Management and Budget. 

The White House's main objection to the bill is that it authorizes a level of defense spending next year in accordance with federal spending caps known as sequestration, but circumvents those caps by increasing a war fund not subject to the limits.

ADVERTISEMENT

While the bill authorizes the level of funding the president is requesting, $612 billion, he has urged Congress to lift the caps on non-defense spending as well. 

"First, the President has been very clear about the core principle that he will not support a budget that locks in sequestration, and he will not fix defense without fixing non-defense spending," the OMB said.

However, Republicans are still expecting the annual defense policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, to pass. 

"For 53 consecutive years, the Congress has passed an NDAA. This year should be no different," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday at the American Action Foundation. 

McCain argued that vetoing the bill — which only authorizes but does not appropriate funds — would be a misplaced move. 

"The NDAA is a policy bill. It does not spend a dollar. It provides the Department of Defense and our men and women in uniform with the authorities and support they need to defend the nation. It is not the place for fights over government spending," he said.

The same White House veto warning was issued to the House as it began debate on its version last month, but the bill passed 269-151, with 41 Democrats voting in favor despite the warning and strong opposition from the Democratic leadership. 

The Senate's bill passed the Armed Services Committee with a bipartisan vote of 22-4, with four Democrats voting against, including ranking member Jack ReedJack ReedBiden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Senate punts on defense bill Warren calls for Senate probe of 2019 Syrian airstrike that killed dozens of civilians MORE (R.I.). Eight Democrats voted in favor. 

So far, the House defense policy bill, the Senate defense policy bill and the House defense appropriations bill all assume funding at the $612 billion level, with $523 billion for base defense spending and $89 billion in the war funding account. 

The White House also objects to using the war funding account, known as overseas contingency operations, to supplant the base budget since it only assumes short-term funding and Pentagon budgeters plan years ahead.

The bill also ignores many reforms recommended in the White House's defense budget request, such as the retirement of some weapons systems, military base closures, and cuts to military benefits and compensation. 

The bill also would impose tougher restrictions on Guantanamo Bay detainee transfers, but gives the president a way to lift those restrictions that OMB calls "unnecessary and overly restrictive." 

The bill also would withhold half of $300 million in authorized military aid to Ukrainian forces unless 20 percent of that was spent on lethal weapons, which OMB said "forces the hand of the Administration" on a "decision that should rest with the Executive Branch."