The possibility that Senate Democrats may filibuster the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill loomed over a debate Thursday stuck on the dispute over the measure’s heavy reliance on DOD’s war account to sidestep stringent spending caps.
While some Democrats have indicated they will try to stop appropriations measures from advancing in the Senate, they have not yet settled on a strategy for the annual defense policy bill, reported CQ Roll Call.
The authorization bill employs the House-Senate budget framework that adds $38 billion to the department’s overseas contingency operations (OCO) account, which is exempt from the caps, to meet the Pentagon’s base budget request.
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called the maneuver a “one-year gimmick” and deliberations over the authorization bill a “waste of time” given President Obama’s threat to veto the measure over its use of the OCO account.
Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) responded that the authorization bill does not fund specific program or agencies and, therefore, it shouldn’t be caught up in a larger dispute over budget caps, according to CQ.
“If you want to fight it, fight it on appropriations,” McCain said.
Meanwhile, former DOD Comptroller Robert Hale told the Hill that Obama is serious about his threat to veto appropriations bills that adhere to the statutory spending caps, as well as the defense authorization bill because it shields the Pentagon from the spending limits without aiding domestic agencies.
“It was quite clear,” he said in reference to the Office of Management and Budget statement issued this week saying the president’s advisers would recommend he veto the authorization measure unless significant changes are made.
“I think it’ll be tough to override a veto, so I would guess they need to look for a different deal,” Hale said. The White House’s veto threat is designed to pressure the GOP to enter negotiations on a new budget deal lifting the caps for both defense and non-defense spending, he added.