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White House Threatens to Veto Veterans Benefits Bill

Obama admin demands raises for bureaucrats, funding for research

Veterans carry flags on Memorial Day in Minn. / AP
• June 4, 2013 11:50 am

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The White House threatened to veto on Monday legislation that would fund benefits and housing programs for needy veterans, arguing that the money would be better spent funding scientific research and other priorities.

The White House said the compressive funding bill, which would allocate critical dollars to the Department of Veterans Affairs, should not even be considered until Congress agrees to a larger budget deal.

"Unless this bill passes the Congress in the context of an overall budget framework that supports our recovery and enables sufficient investments in education, infrastructure, innovation and national security for our economy to compete in the future, the president’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto H.R. 2216 and any other legislation that implements the House Republican Budget framework," the White House said in a statement.

The funding bill would allocate money to several veterans’ affairs programs, including the department’s Veterans Benefits Administration, the Veterans Health Administration, and several other programs that train former soldiers to get jobs.

The bill also would fund grants for the construction of extended care facilities and cemeteries dedicated to veterans, as well as housing for military families and the Defense Department’s Family Housing Improvement Fund.

The administration argued that while it supports veterans the money could be better spent in other places.

The bill, as written by House Republicans, "would hurt our economy and require draconian cuts to middle-class priorities," the White House said, citing funding for Head Start, drug enforcement officers, and medical grants. The Obama administration also highlighted the desire to give government employees a raise.

"The Administration urges the Congress to provide the proposed 1.0 percent pay increase for Federal civilian employees. As the President stated in his FY 2014 Budget, a permanent pay freeze is neither sustainable nor desirable," the statement said.

One senior Republican foreign policy aide on Capitol Hill said that the administration is putting politics ahead of the nation’s veterans.

"Let me get this straight, the Obama Administration is laying off over 100,000 troops, after these guys have spent a decade fighting for us—but they'll veto a bill because it won't give bureaucrats a raise?" asked the source.

The bill also contains a measure that would prohibit the administration from constructing a U.S.-based facility to house inmates currently incarcerated at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

President Barack Obama has proposed to shut down the prison and transfer the remaining terrorists to the United States, a move many Republicans oppose.

The legislation is an attempt to stop the administration from bringing terrorists currently housed in Guantanamo Bay to the United States by cutting off funding that would be used to either construct or renovate an existing site in America.

The White House condemned this portion of the bill in its Monday evening statement.

"The Administration strongly opposes" the language because it would "constrain the flexibility that the Nation's Armed Forces and counterterrorism professionals need to deal with evolving threats, intruding upon the Executive Branch's ability to carry out its mission."

Meanwhile, the White House also threatened to veto on Monday another wide-ranging homeland security spending bill that would have released nearly $6 billion for disaster relief programs.