Defense Bill Vetoed, Heads Back to Congress

U.S. President Barack Obama vetoes H.R. 1735 "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016" in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington October 22, 2015. Obama officially vetoed the $612 billion defense bill on Thursday, sending the legislation back to Congress because of the way it uses money meant for war spending to avoid automatic budget cuts to military programs. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS5PM2

By Debbie Gregory.

President Barack Obama vetoed a $612 billion defense policy bill, insisting congressional Republicans send him a better version, one that doesn’t tie his hands on some of his top priorities.

Obama praised the bill for ensuring the military stays funded and making improvements on armed forces retirement and cybersecurity. Yet, at the same time, he accused Republicans of resorting to “gimmicks,” objecting to the way the bill purposes using money meant for war spending to avoid automatic budget cuts to military programs.

“Unfortunately, it falls woefully short,” Obama said. “I’m going to be sending it back to Congress, and my message to them is very simple: Let’s do this right.”

Previously, Obama has vetoed only a handful of bills. And those vetoes were done in private. But in an effort to call attention to Obama’s concerns, the White House invited reporters and photographers to witness him veto this bill.

The veto marked the latest wrinkle in the ongoing fight between Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress over whether to increase federal spending, and how.

Four years after Congress passed and Obama signed into law strict, across-the-board spending limits, both parties are eager to bust through defense spending caps. Obama and many Democrats want a broader budget deal that would address mandatory cuts in domestic spending rather than only providing more funds for the Pentagon.

Republicans argue that the military should be spared many of the so-called sequestration budget cuts to ensure national security. They accuse Democrats of using the issue to camouflage a desire for irresponsible domestic spending.

Obama also said he disagreed with provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that would limit his ability to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center before he leaves office.

“It’s time for us to close it. It’s outdated, it’s expensive, it’s been there for years. We can do better in terms of keeping Americans safe while making sure that we are consistent with our values,” he said.