WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama will veto the $612 billion defense authorization bill if it is passed in Congress because of the “irresponsible way” it boosts military spending.
Obama and many of his fellow Democrats object to the use of $90 billion in special war funds in the policy bill to allow the Department of Defense to avoid mandatory “sequestration” budget cuts.
“That’s an irresponsible way to fund our national defense priorities,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a news briefing.
“If the president got this bill, he’d veto it,” Earnest said.
Republicans accuse Democrats of risking national security to preserve programs that should be pared back.
Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the veto threat “shameful.”
“The NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) is a policy bill,” McCain said. “It does not spend a dollar, and it certainly cannot raise the budget caps or deliver an agreement to fund the government. It is absurd to veto the NDAA for something that the NDAA cannot do.”
U.S. Representative Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he agreed with Obama that the bill was bad for national security.
“If passed, the president should veto this bill, and Congress should fix it. That is what is good for national security,” he said in a statement.
Members of Congress pride themselves on having passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets spending policy but does not actually appropriate funds, for 53 straight years.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Julia Edwards; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Alan Crosby and Tom Brown