Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., appear unperturbed by a recent threat from the White House to veto the defense authorization bill, which is expected to pass within hours.
The White House last week threatened to veto the defense bill authorizing $631 billion in Pentagon spending for next year, citing "serious concerns" about certain provisions, including limitations on funding to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo Bay; restrictions on the Pentagon’s ability to procure alternative fuels; and zeroed out funding for an air and missile defense system. The Obama administration also encouraged the Senate to adopt the fee initiatives it requested for the military’s health care system, Tricare, which it claims would save $1.8 billion next year.
“I can remember many, many occasions when there have been veto threats, and there’s been negotiations, then we got to conference,” McCain told reporters on Tuesday. “Hopefully we can resolve many of their objections. It’s always a very big step when a president vetoes a defense bill.”
Levin said members would “obviously consider" the White House's objections-- to a certain extent. “We’re going to do what we think is best to take into consideration what we think their statement is, but we can’t give them a veto on what we legislate,” Levin said, noting the chamber has already addressed some of the administration's concerns. Last week, the Democrat-controlled Senate passed an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., restoring the Pentagon’s power to invest in green energy--which the administration supports.
Once the bill passes the chamber, likely later on Tuesday, House and Senate members will conference on the legislation to resolve outstanding differences between them.
Levin said he is “very optimistic” the president will sign the final version of the bill.