House Speaker Paul Ryan slammed the Obama administration for plotting to derail the GOP’s defense spending legislation Tuesday, alleging the Pentagon is putting its political agenda ahead of the best interest of American troops.
His comments come after a memo was leaked to Politico detailing the agency’s plan to pit both chambers against each other to prevent Ryan’s proposal from passing. The legislation calls for Overseas Contingency Operations funding to increase defense spending without busting budget caps for Fiscal Year 2017. This situation is similar to what was seen during FY 2016’s budget negotiations.
“For this administration, it’s always politics first, even at the Pentagon. This memo details with relish a plan to use a presidential veto of a defense bill as a ‘weapon,'” Ryan said in a statement. “It’s shameless, and it threatens more than five decades of bipartisan cooperation to enact a national defense bill for our troops. The men and women who defend our country deserve better.”
Top officials wrote the agency needs to support their Congressional allies while continuing to pressure them against supporting the proposal, saying they “need to be prepared to play hardball,” according to the document sent to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work.
“The principal weapon at our disposal is the veto, which can and should be deployed against both authorization and appropriations if they include the OCO gimmick,” the memo reads. “The strength of the veto threat is dependent on the House and Senate Democratic Leadership and their ability to garner sufficient opposition to make it relevant.”
The blueprint laid out how they planned to achieve their goal, highlighting the best tactics to target the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate’s four Congressional defense committees.
“We believe that Chairman Thornberry is still smarting from the veto sustaining vote that the FY2016 NDAA received the first time it was on the floor last year and has vowed to do everything in his power to ensure he gets a strong vote this year,” the memo says.
“Cautious behavior driven by the electoral cycle, combined with Thornberry’s savvy inclusion of enough Democrat Member high-interest items (e.g., New Balance shoes, submarines, ect.) included in the bill means he will probably achieve that strong vote (we don’t have any indications that there will be a strong pushback next week on the floor from House Democrats,” the memo continues.
In addition to supporting a veto, the department said it would craft a detailed fact sheet, push for op-eds written by top department leaders to further the narrative, set up meetings with leaders on the issue and push for think tanks and former senior military leaders to advocate for its cause.
Carter was vocal about his disapproval of using OCO funding to sidestep the spending caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act as part of the FY 2016 budget, arguing transferring money from the slush fund doesn’t provide a long-term solution.
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