US House Set to Pass Defense Bill Opposed by Obama

WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House of Representatives is on track to pass a nearly $612 billion defense policy bill, a measure that usually garners bipartisan support but this year has drawn a veto threat from President Barack Obama and angered a Shiite cleric in Iraq.

A vote is expected Friday on the bill to fund the U.S. military. Obama has issued several veto threats since Republicans took full control of Congress in January.

Overall, the House bill authorizes $515 billion in spending for national defense and another $89.2 billion for the emergency war-fighting fund for a total of $604.2 billion. Another $7.7 billion is mandatory defense spending that doesn't get authorized by Congress. That means the bill would provide the entire $611.9 billion desired by the president, but he still opposes it.

Obama and Democratic lawmakers are against the measure because it ignores automatic spending caps imposed by Congress in 2011 to address federal deficits, the result of a prolonged partisan battle over federal spending. The bill increases defense spending by padding the emergency war-fighting fund, which is not affected by the caps. Democrats argue that the Republicans want to ignore spending caps when it comes to funding the military, but wants to adhere to them when it comes to other domestic spending.

The White House is pushing back against a host of provisions of the bill, including one that would make it harder for Obama to close the military prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On Ukraine, it calls for arming Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed separatists, a move the Obama administration has so far resisted.

The administration also opposes measures that aim to bypass the Iraqi government in Baghdad and give money directly to Iraqi Kurdish fighters. That has angered Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who threatened to attack U.S. interests if the provision passes.

The Senate version follows the same approach. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to authorize $523 billion in base funding for the Defense Department and other national security programs and an additional $90.2 billion for the emergency war-fighting fund.

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