White House Issues Blanket Veto Threat on FY 2016 Appropriations Bills

April 20, 2015

The White House this week issued veto threats against the first two fiscal 2016 appropriations bills to move through the House of Representatives. The veto threats use identical language and rationale suggesting that the President will issue similar veto threats against all appropriations bills that are consistent with the spending totals in the Budget Control Act, including the Transportation-HUD bill.

The veto threats issued by the Office of Management and Budget against the Energy and Water Development bill (H.R. 2028) and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill (H.R. 2029) contain identical language:

The President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto H.R. [xxxx] and any other legislation that implements the current Republican budget framework, which blocks the investments needed for our economy to compete in the future. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to reverse sequestration for defense and non-defense priorities and offset the cost with commonsense spending and tax expenditure cuts, as Members of Congress from both parties have urged.” (OMB always underlines its veto threat language for emphasis.)

When it comes to discretionary spending, the “current Republican budget framework” is identical to the spending caps for 2016 required by the Budget Control Act that were calculated by the President’s own OMB in a document called the “Sequestration Preview Report” released February 2, 2015 – $523.091 billion for defense and $493.491 billion for non-defense. (There is some wiggle room on the defense number because the BCA exempts Iraq/Afghanistan/GWOT money from the defense cap but does not define amounts or say exactly what can and cannot be funded under that designation.)

In his 2016 budget, the President proposed to pass legislation increasing the Budget Control Act spending cap for 2016 by $74.4 billion ($37.9 billion for defense, $36.5 billion for non-defense). The pending GOP budget blueprint ignores that proposal but does provide for Iraq/Afghanistan/Global War on Terrorism funding exempt from the defense cap at a level $45 billion higher than that proposed by the President. So the Congressional GOP budget effectively takes the President’s proposal combined defense number and increases it slightly while ignoring the President’s proposed increase for non-defense program.

The clear endgame for the President and his allies in Congress is to force Republicans to negotiate a budget deal similar to the Ryan-Murray law from December 2013, which increased the Budget Control Act spending caps for two years (split 50-50 between defense and non-defense) and paid for the increased discretionary spending by cutting mandatory spending and raising federal revenues and fees by an equivalent amount over ten years. But the earliest that can happen is this summer (possibly this fall), so the Appropriations Committees have to write spending bills between now and then consistent with current law BCA levels, which the White House and Democrats will oppose.

The veto threat on the Energy and Water bill is here.


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