WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama’s White House set up one last fight with the Republican-controlled Congress over defense spending on Monday, threatening to veto a 2017 defense authorization bill over its use of special war funds for day-to-day military programs.
The House of Representatives draft of the $602 billion National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which sets spending policy for the Department of Defense, would shift $18 billion of wartime Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, funds to avoid automatic budget cuts to military programs.
The Obama administration objects to the use of that money, saying it threatens U.S. security and unfairly spares the Pentagon from cuts faced by important civilian programs such as medical research and education.
“By gambling with warfighting funds, the bill risks the safety of our men and women fighting to keep America safe, undercuts stable planning and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, dispirits troops and their families, baffles our allies, and emboldens our enemies,” the White House said in a statement.
House Republicans say the spending plan is essential to ensure that the military has the resources it needs, as it wages wars in Afghanistan and against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
The Obama administration also objected to a long list of policy provisions in the bill, including measures making it more difficult to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and cuts in funding for programs to train and equip local fighters in Iraq and Syria.
Obama vetoed one version of the 2016 NDAA over its use of OCO funding and the Guantanamo restrictions. He later signed a modified version that addressed his budget concerns but left the Guantanamo measures in place.
It will be months before the legislation passes Congress and arrives on Obama’s desk.
The House draft has passed the House Armed Services Committee, and Republican leaders would like a vote by the full House as soon as Wednesday.
However, lawmakers have offered 375 amendments on a huge range of issues. The Rules Committee was meeting late on Monday to decide which of those amendments might come up for a vote.
The Senate is also drafting its version of the NDAA, which must be reconciled with the House’s before being subject to vote in both chambers. If passed, that version would be sent to the White House for Obama’s signature, or veto.
Additional reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Eric Beech and Leslie Adler