President Obama plans to veto the compromise version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill over its reliance on DOD’s overseas contingency operations (OCO) account to sidestep the Budget Control Act spending caps, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Wednesday.
When asked at a press briefing if he would recommend the president veto the legislation, Carter said, “I already have, and he’s indicated if it were presented to him in this form in which it appears it is going to be presented to him, it is going to be vetoed,” reported the Hill.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday also said Obama would send the final version of authorization bill, which Armed Services committee leaders unveiled on Tuesday, back to Congress. “If the president got this bill, he’d veto it,” Earnest told reporters.
The House is expected to approve the conference report, H.R. 1735, on Thursday, with the Senate scheduled to take it up next week.
The bill would authorize $612 billion in national security spending, the same amount the White House requested. In a break with the administration, though, the measure leaves the discretionary budget caps in place, and authorizes only $496 billion for DOD’s base budget. To make up the shortfall, it shifts $38 billion in operation and maintenance funds that had been part of the base budget to the DOD’s OCO account, which is not subject to the caps. The bill would authorize a total of $89 billion for that account.
The White House has demanded that Congress lift the caps on both defense and non-defense spending, and return the $38 billion to DOD’s base budget. And Democrats are standing behind the administration on the issue — only one Democrat in the House and two Democrats in the Senate signed the conference report. The top Democrats on the Senate and House Armed Services committees said they plan to oppose the measure.
The committees’ Republican leaders decried the veto threat.
“It is unbelievable to me that an American president would threaten to veto a defense bill that supports our troops and gives him additional tools to use against aggressors, especially at a time when the world situation is spiraling out of control from Eastern Europe to the Middle East and South Asia,” said Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
“This is a time to stand together for our nation’s security, rather than play cheap political games,” Thornberry added.