President Obama warns that he will veto the annual defense policy bill Thursday afternoon, the latest development in the partisan dispute over federal spending, even though the legislation doesn’t spend a penny of taxpayers’ money.
What the bill does is authorize Defense programs, and shift $38 billion from regular operations and maintenance accounts to a war funding account that’s not subject to mandatory budget caps imposed by a 2011 law. The White House wants those caps lifted, not just for defense, but also for domestic spending, and has demanded congressional Republicans negotiate a broad budget deal before Obama will sign any spending bills.
The White House also objects to provisions that would effectively bar Obama from closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the rest of his term, though Obama has backed down on similar provisions in past legislation.
Republicans, backed by some military advocacy groups such as the Military Officers Association of America, have urged Obama to sign the bill, which also contains important reforms to defense acquisition practices and cost-saving changes to military benefits that have broad bipartisan support.
“The [National Defense Authorization Act] is a policy bill – it does not spend a dime. This veto threat is about one thing only – politics. The president wants to take a stand for greater domestic spending by playing politics with our national security,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said Monday after Congress sent the bill to the president. The Senate cleared the bill on Oct. 7.
“Vetoing the NDAA will neither solve the spending debate nor stop sequestration. That is something that can only be done through the appropriations process – not a defense authorization bill and not a defense policy bill,” McCain added.
Because it’s so rare to veto a defense policy bill, Obama will veto the bill in full view of the press, and is expected to explain his decision as he does so late Thursday afternoon.