Obama Sidesteps Question on Threat to Veto Defense Spending

President Barack Obama sidestepped a question Monday on whether he would go through with his threat to veto a bipartisan defense authorization bill, saying members of the military “are going to get paid.”

“I’ve now been president for six-and-a-half years and we’ve had some wrangling with Congress in the past,” Obama told reporters at the Pentagon. “Our service members haven’t missed a paycheck.”

White House officials have said the president would veto the annual authorization measure, which passed the Senate late last month with 71 votes, because it uses an approximately $38 billion boost in contingency funding to get around mandatory spending caps imposed by sequestration.

The administration describes that as an accounting gimmick and says that the limits should be lifted on both defense and domestic spending, a point Obama reiterated on Monday.

“The reason we have the best military in the world is, first and foremost, because we got the best troops in history, but it’s also because we’ve got a strong economy and we’ve got a well-educated population and we’ve got an incredible research operation and universities that allow us to create new products that then can be translated into our military superiority around the world,” Obama said.

The president’s decision not to reiterate the veto threat - - while assuring service members they would be paid -- leaves the door open. The White House has previously threatened to veto defense spending bills over provisions restricting the president’s ability to move detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, but Obama ultimately signed the legislation.

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, alluded to the budget battle Monday in a statement critical of the president’s strategy toward combating the Islamic State. Obama was meeting with top military commanders at the Pentagon to discuss the U.S. strategy for fighting the terror group.

“We’re not going to defeat a radical jihadist army with more bureaucrats in D.C. and no funding for our military on the front lines,” Cotton said.

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