Budget Deal May Be Required to Enact Defense Policy Bill

The next step following President Obama’s veto of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization last week will be an attempt by House Republicans to come up with the votes to override it.

The task won’t come easy as the House’s 270-156 vote approving the conference report at the beginning of the month fell 20 votes shy of the 290 needed to reach a two-thirds majority. House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and GOP leaders will start by leaning on the 10 Republicans who voted against the conference report to switch their votes.

And then defense hawks will work on Democrats from defense-dependent districts who voted against the bill. “Nobody’s denying it’s going to be an uphill climb,” a Republican congressional aide told Politico.

The House vote to override the veto is scheduled for Nov. 5. An override vote will only take place in the Senate if the House achieves the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the veto. The Senate’s 70-27 vote to adopt the conference report exceeded the two-thirds threshold, but it’s possible that some Democrats would switch their votes to sustain the president’s veto.

If Congress fails to override Obama’s rejection of the annual policy bill, the best hope for enacting the measure would be for the two parties to strike a deal raising the statutory budget caps. That would be the only path that meets the president’s demand to provide budget relief to the Pentagon as well as non-defense agencies. Under that scenario, the authorization bill likely would be updated to reflect the new spending levels and then sent back to the president.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen

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