October 7, 2015 / 6:58 PM / 4 years ago

Senate approves defense bill despite veto threat

Tourists walk past the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 8, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation on Wednesday that would allow the military to avoid mandatory spending cuts, setting up a likely veto from President Barack Obama, who is pushing for a broader budget deal.

The Senate approved the $612 billion defense-policy bill 70- 27. The House of Representatives has already approved the measure.

Republicans are not expected to muster the two-thirds vote that would be needed in both chambers to override an Obama veto as Democrats say they will be less likely to support it in the event of a showdown with the White House.

The National Defense Authorization Act would allow the Pentagon to use some $90 billion meant for war spending to avoid automatic budget cuts to military and domestic programs due to take effect when current funding runs out in December.

Obama and his fellow Democrats want Republicans to work out a broader budget deal that would lift domestic and military spending levels through 2017. They say the Department of Defense would be better served by a multiyear budget deal than by what they call a one-year gimmick.

Republicans said Obama’s threatened veto would put national security at risk and do nothing to solve the spending dispute.

“This is foolish, misguided, cynical and dangerous,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain warned.

The bill would ban “water boarding” and other harsh interrogation techniques, prohibit the administration from transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States, and expand military retirement benefits and cyber warfare capabilities. It also would fund several weapons programs the Pentagon has said it does not want.

Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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