White House threatens NDAA veto; Senate passes first appropriations bill

The White House issued a statement on Monday threatening to veto the House’s 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which appropriates funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) over the next fiscal year.

Specifically, President Obama is objecting to the transfer of $18 billion from Overseas Contingency Operations, “war funds”, to supplement routine military programs and thus avoid automatic budget cuts to DOD, as established in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

“By gambling with war fighting 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 statement read.

NDAA for 2017 passed out of the House Armed Services Committee on April 28 and GOP brass has reportedly set a goal of bring the bill to the floor on Wednesday, but 375 amendments have been offered which may delay a final vote.

An appropriations bill more likely to be signed into law passed Thursday in the Senate, as lawmakers in Congress’ upper-chamber overwhelming approved funding for the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy.

Eight senators descended, citing excessive budgeting which appropriated $261 million more than President Obama asked for.  Sens. Lee, Cruz, Paul, Sasse and Sessions were among those who voted ‘No’.

“(The increased spending is) simply unacceptable in a time of rising debt and slower economic growth,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). “We’re never going to get our nation’s rising deficits under control until we can stick to our previous agreements on spending levels.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act allows for an increase of $30 billion in discretionary spending above levels originally set in 2011, also referred to as sequestration.

However, it was clear that Senate Republican leadership wanted to show signs of competency in an election year, as a conservative amendment which would have made the bill “dead on arrival” at the president’s desk was voted down prior to passage.

Sen. Tom Cotton’s amendment to ban the purchase of heavy water from Iran was not designated as “germane” to the bill, and thus required 60 votes to pass instead of 51.

In the end, Sen. Cotton (R-AR) ended up voting for the bill as did fellow first-term conservative Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), a member of the Appropriations Committee.

“This is the first time this appropriation bill has passed the Senate since 2009,” said Lankford. “To avoid last-minute continuing resolutions, backroom deals and omnibus bills, we must move bills through a regular-order appropriations process.”

Thursday’s Senate vote may be a step in the right direction to restoring regular-order in Congress, but fiscal responsibility has still yet to be realized, even with the most conservative U.S. federal legislature in nearly a century.

 

[Reuters] [The Daily Signal]