President Obama vetoes $612 billion defense spending bill in public ceremony
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Airing his frustrations with congressional Republicans during a rare public veto ceremony, President Barack Obama Thursday, October 22nd rejected a massive defense funding measure, saying it hampers his administration’s efforts to streamline Pentagon spending.
Speaking in the Oval Office, Obama said the $612 billion National Defense Authorization Act sent to him by lawmakers utilized monetary tricks to circumvent mandatory spending caps that both Democrats and Republicans want to see eliminated.
“I have repeatedly called on Congress to eliminate the sequester and make sure we are providing certainty to our military,” Obama said. “This bill, instead, resorts to gimmicks that does not allow the Pentagon to do what it needs to do.”
The veto was only the fifth Obama has signed since taking office, and the first that he’s administered in a formal signing ceremony.
Obama urged lawmakers to heed his concerns about the funding mechanism, as well as eliminate provisions in the measure that would prevent him from transferring prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba.
“Guantanamo is one of the premier mechanisms for jihadists to recruit,” he said. “It’s time for us to close it. It is outdated, it is expensive, it has been there for years, and we can do better in terms of keeping our people safe while ensuring we are consistent with our values.”
“I’m going to be sending it back to Congress and my message to them is very simple: Let’s do this right,” Obama said.
Republicans seized on the parallel news Thursday that an American serviceman died during a hostage rescue mission in Iraq to paint Obama as leaving the military vulnerable.
Vetoing the bill “in such a public way is a poke in the eye to the troops that are serving all around the world, including those in Iraq,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
“One brave American lost his life today trying to assist in stopping terrorism and how does the commander-in-chief respond? He vetoes the bill,” Thornberry said. The death was the first American combat death in Iraq since 2011.
Republicans say they’ll attempt to override Obama’s veto, though the White House says it’s confident the rejection will be sustained. A veto override requires two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate.