President could still veto legislation because of objections to funding mechanism in the bill
WASHINGTON — On a notably bipartisan vote of 73-26, the U.S. Senate advanced a bill that saves A10 aircraft at Selfridge Air National Guard Base and across the nation even though President Barack Obama has promised to veto it when it reaches his desk, which is expected to happen in the next several days.
Obama’s objections to the annual defense authorization bill, which spells out the level of funding for the Pentagon, isn’t focused on plans to retire the A10s, but on Republican proposals to fund increases in the defense budget by using off-budget war spending accounts to get around the funding caps known as sequestration.
But if Tuesday’s vote on the legislation was any indication, Obama could be facing a veto override, at least in the Senate, since it only takes 67 votes to get past a presidential veto in that chamber. The Senate’s procedural vote to end debate Tuesday set up a final vote on the compromise House-Senate measure in the days to come.
While the level of support in the Senate may be enough to override a veto, however, that’s not necessarily the case in the U.S. House. It takes 290 votes to override a veto in that chamber and the compromise report on the defense authorization passed that chamber last week by a vote of 270-156, less than the votes needed to override.
Speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said while he knew many Democratic senators would back the bill in this vote, that they would vote to sustain a veto if the Democratic president refused to sign the bill in the days to come.
Both of Michigan’s senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, voted in favor of the bill on Tuesday.
“My Democrats are Democrats,” Reid said. “If the time comes to sustain a presidential veto, that will be done.”
Obama may object to the funding mechanism in the legislation, but it has the support of Michigan’s members of the Senate on at least one key provision: protecting the fleet of A10 attack jets, also known as “Warthogs,” flying out of Selfridge in Harrison Township.
The Pentagon has made clear its intentions to retire the A10s across the U.S. in the years to come, believing there are better air support jets available and it would cost too much to modernize the existing aircraft.
But worries are high at Selfridge, which recently deployed its dozen or so A10s in the Middle East against the Islamic State, that if it loses the A10s and they are not replaced with another jet, the base could be vulnerable in a new round of base closures.
If Obama vetoes the authorization legislation, it wouldn’t have any immediate impact on the A10s or much of the rest of the defense budget, but would continue a stalemate with Republican legislators on Capitol Hill over how to pay for any increase in Pentagon spending or where additional cuts could be found.
The White House and many Democrats agree that sequestration caps on spending are hurting governmental programs, but profess if they are going to be skirted for defense purposes they need to be raised for social programs as well.
Contact Todd Spangler: 703-854-8947 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tsspangler.
From the Detroit Free Press: