President Obama's veto of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act on Friday has set up a showdown with Congress as it wrestles with how to fund the federal government through the next fiscal year.
Central to that fight is what to do about the federal budget sequester, a spending control measure adopted in 2011 that has mandated automatic spending reductions in defense and discretionary programs and first took effect in 2013.
In his remarks to the press regarding the veto, President Obama said the Defense Authorization Act "resorts to gimmicks" to reach its spending levels while failing to address the sequester.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published before the veto was issued, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the sequester "merely papers over the defense-funding shortfall caused by sequestration, transferring funds from the regular budget into the department’s war-funding accounts to evade the Budget Control Act’s limitations."
The veto drew an immediate response from Republican members of the Virginia congressional delegation.
In a press release, First District Rep. Rob Wittman, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee, said: “For the first time in this nation’s history, the President has chosen to veto the National Defense Authorization Act over domestic policy differences and deny our military critical funding."
Second Congressional District Rep. Scott Rigell, whose district has a substantial military presence, issued a statement calling the veto "irresponsible and harmful to our national security."
Fourth District Rep. Randy Forbes, Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, said in a press release that the veto "sends yet another signal of weakness to our enemies and our allies. And it should send a clear message that America needs a new direction and a new President.”
George Mason University economics professor Donald Boudreaux told AMI Newswire: "It would be political suicide in many cases for representatives of districts that heavily depend upon military spending not to vigorously protests cuts to such spending."
The Pew Charitable Trusts found that, in 2013, defense spending accounted for 31 percent of total economic activity in the commonwealth. Governor Terry McAuliffe's 2014 "New Virginia Economy" plan acknowledged that the Defense Department "has no rival" as the state's biggest employer.