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GOP plots bid to override Obama's veto

GOP plots bid to override Obama's veto

Congressional Republicans are vowing to make an effort to override President Obama’s forthcoming veto of a defense policy bill, looking to paint the commander in chief as putting politics ahead of American troops.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerHouston Chronicle endorses Beto O'Rourke in Texas Senate race The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger MORE (R-Ohio) signed the National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday. The measure next heads to Obama’s desk, where the president has promised to veto it.

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GOP leaders maintain they won’t let the action pass without a fight and will use the veto to argue that Obama does not care about defense and national security.

“The president wants to make a point about spending,” Boehner said. “There are certainly ways to do that without putting our troops in the middle.” 

The White House said earlier Tuesday that the president intended to issue his veto well before his 10-day deadline to act on the legislation. The veto would be the fifth of Obama’s presidency.

“I would not anticipate that we are going to wait around 10 days, even if Republicans wait at least 10 days to send it up here,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. 

Republican leaders made clear their plans to rebuke the president while attending Boehner’s formal signing of the bill — an event that does not typically attract much fanfare.

“I hope that we will be able to override the veto,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats slide in battle for Senate McConnell and wife confronted by customers at restaurant Pelosi, Schumer: Trump 'desperate' to put focus on immigration, not health care MORE (R-Ky.) said at the ceremony. “I hope that will happen in the House [too]. It richly deserves to become law.”  

McConnell maintained there would be enough votes in the Senate to override the veto, despite a warning by Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidFive takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Major overhauls needed to ensure a violent revolution remains fictional Senate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees MORE (D-Nev.) that Senate Democrats who backed the bill’s passage would switch their vote to keep that from happening.

Several Senate Democrats, however, indicated they would not. 

“I’m almost certainly going to vote the same way I have been voting,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Tuesday.

However, if Republicans attempt to override the president’s veto, the battle is expected to be in the House, where Democrats are more loyal to the party and where House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) could whip votes. 

The final version of the bill passed the House with 270 votes — which included 233 Republicans and 37 Democrats.

Twenty more votes would be needed to override the president, which a House Democratic aide to Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said are just not there.

“We believe the president has the votes to sustain his veto,” said the aide.

The president and Democrats oppose the bill because it would authorize spending levels in line with a Republican plan to keep federal spending caps in place but would allow more to be added to defense by using a war fund not subject to the caps. 

The White House said the caps should be lifted on both defense and nondefense spending. 

Smith’s aide said the bill misuses the war fund — known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) — to evade the congressionally mandated budget caps. 

“The Congressman has continually said that we must eliminate sequestration and enact a long-term, comprehensive budget deal,” she said.

McConnell said he hopes after the veto that the bill will be sent to the Senate first, where there are enough votes to override the president and possibly pave the way for the House. 

However, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) told reporters on Tuesday that the bill will likely be sent to the House first. 

As far as whether there is a larger fix to the budget fight, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters he has not heard “anything good” about budget talks going on between the Republicans and the White House in a bid to fix the overall budget problem. 

Kaine said he was “heartened” by a recent letter spearheaded by House Republican defense hawks and sent to the Republican leadership earlier this week. 

That letter, organized by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), said 101 Republicans support funding the Pentagon’s base budget at the president’s requested level — which would be above the spending-cap level. 

The signers included 11 members of the conservative Freedom Caucus. 

The typically bipartisan bill has passed for 53 years straight and has only been vetoed four times in history. 

“If he vetoes it, it will be historic, but not in a good way,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said at the Brookings Institution. Thornberry said the bill included more than 600 provisions that include important reforms for the Pentagon. 

One such reform would be of the military retirement system, which would allow troops serving fewer than 20 years to accrue retirement benefits. 

The bill would also implement new reforms to streamline the Pentagon’s unwieldy and slow weapons buying system. 

It would also authorize a pay raise for troops for 2016.