White House Veto Threat: House Defense Bill Would Hurt Americans

The White House issued a veto threat on Monday evening, threatening to torpedo the House’s version of the annual Department of Defense (DoD) appropriations bill (H.R. 2397). House Republicans are proposing defense spending levels that are higher than this years and that break through spending caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

DoD spending is at levels higher than those of the Cold War, even after adjusting for inflation, and only mildly lower than in the last several years. The House proposed a larger DoD budget exceeding budgetary caps set by law by shrinking the budgets of programs and agencies that assist middle and low income Americans and reduce resources for numerous domestic priorities that broadly help the nation (see Figure 1 at the bottom).

According to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget:

...enacting H.R. 2397, while adhering to the overall spending limits in the House Budget's topline discretionary level for fiscal year (FY) 2014, would hurt our economy and require draconian cuts to middle-class priorities. These cuts could result in hundreds of thousands of low-income children losing access to Head Start programs, tens of thousands of children with disabilities losing Federal funding for their special education teachers and aides, thousands of Federal agents who cannot enforce drug laws, combat violent crime or apprehend fugitives, and thousands of scientists without medical grants, which would slow research that could lead to new treatments and cures for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's, and hurt America's economic competitiveness.

Unless this bill passes the Congress in the context of an overall budget framework that supports our recovery and enables sufficient investments in education, infrastructure, innovation and national security for our economy to compete in the future, the President's senior advisors would recommend that he veto H.R. 2397 and any other legislation that implements the House Republican Budget framework.

Earlier this year, the Center for Effective Government organized a sign-on letter calling for the cancellation of sequestration, which is within Congress’ power to do. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced legislation earlier this year that would do this, called the Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013 (H.R. 900). In this scenario, there could be a higher topline budget overall with higher, stable, or lower spending for the DoD. The policy impetus for these budgetary limits has gone away; notably, government deficits are shrinking and the policy arguments for austerity have been disproven.

The Center has also pulled together several proposals for targeted defense savings where waste could be eliminated, overly expensive weapon systems could be replaced with cheaper alternatives, and weapons that are not urgently needed could be delayed for several years.


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