The Senate advanced the National Defense Authorization Act in a 73-26 procedural vote Tuesday despite the Obama administration’s threat to veto the measure over its use if Overseas Contingency Operations funds.
Under the spending bill, around $90 billion would be added to the defense budget through OCO funds, sidestepping spending caps put in place by the Budget Control Act.
“We’ve heard some worrying rhetoric from across the aisle, we’ve even heard a suggestion that this bipartisan reform bill is just ‘a waste of time,'” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in debate ahead of the vote. “I strongly disagree it is a waste of time to transform bureaucratic waste into crucial investments for our troops and their families, like the raises they’ve earned and the quality-of-life programs they deserve.”
Critics of the bill, including Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed, said using the emergency war funds is a temporary fix at best and fears members will use similar maneuvers to circumvent the spending limits set by the sequester.
“They finance the cost of ongoing military operations or to respond to other unforeseen events like natural disasters,” the Rhode Island Democrat said. “To suddenly ignore the true purpose of OCO and treat it as a budgetary gambit in order to skirt the BCA caps is, in my view, an unacceptable use of this important tool for our war fighters in the field.”
Sen. John McCain accused the Democrats of politicizing the issue, charging them with putting their agenda ahead of the interests of those serving the country.
“Please don’t say that you support the men and women in the military, then come to this floor and say that and then vote against this legislation, don’t do it,” McCain said. “Because any objective observer will tell you that the provisions in this bill are for the benefit of the men and women who are serving in an all-volunteer force.”
The lower chamber passed the NDAA conference report last last week in a 270-156 vote, just short of the 290 needed in the House to override a veto. The Senate passed a similar version of the bill last summer that also included OCO funding which passed in a 71-25 vote.
Reid said Democrats plan to uphold the president’s veto when the legislation moves forward.
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