An increasingly antagonistic White House issued a veto threat on Monday, and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough reinforced that message in a private meeting with House Democrats on Tuesday morning. Late Wednesday, the White House issued another veto threat over restrictions in the bill on President Barack Obama's ability to transfer terror suspects from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The full-throated message had little influence.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., highlighted her vote for the bill and its importance to her home state, where more than 150,000 have defense or defense-related jobs. Her colleague, Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., praised the A-10 Warthog, which trains in Tucson.
In committee, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., a former pilot and tea party favorite elected in 2012, spared three of seven AWACS aircraft based at Tinker Air Force Base in his home state.
The House engaged in a spirited debate over post-Sept. 11 laws and practices, and whether they are overly broad and still viable nearly 13 years after the terror attacks. Lawmakers pressed to sunset the authorization given to the president to use military force, to end the indefinite detention of terror suspects captured on U.S. soil and to close the U.S. naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The House rejected all three amendments to change current law.
To address the pervasive problem of sexual assault in the military, the bill would change the military rules of evidence to prohibit the accused from using good military character as defense in court-martial proceedings unless it was directly relevant to the alleged crime.
The "good soldier defense" could encompass a defendant's military record of reliability, dependability, professionalism and reputation as an individual who could be counted on in war and peacetime.
Overall, the legislation would provide $495.8 billion for the core defense budget, $17.9 billion for energy programs within Pentagon spending and $79.4 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas operations.