Biden Threatens to Veto Military Construction and VA Spending Bill

Biden Threatens to Veto Military Construction and VA Spending Bill

Jim Watson/Pool via Reuters

The White House said Monday that President Joe Biden would veto the House version of a bill funding military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2025. The bill, which passed through the Appropriations Committee in May, is being debated by the Rules Committee today and could move to the House floor for a vote as soon as this week.

The bill would provide $147 billion in discretionary funding and $231 billion in mandatory funding in 2025, for a total of $378 billion. The discretionary funding includes $129 billion for Veterans Affairs and $18 billion for Pentagon construction projects.

The bill also includes policy riders that touch on controversial culture war issues such as abortion access and sexual identity that have tripped up efforts to build consensus between Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the past.  

In a policy statement, the Office of Management and Budget said the administration’s opposition to the bill stems in part from those elements, which include a reversal of the VA's policy of providing abortions in cases of rape and incest. “Similar to last year, H.R. 8580 includes numerous, partisan policy provisions with devastating consequences, including harming access to reproductive healthcare, threatening the health and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex Americans, endangering marriage equality, hindering critical climate change initiatives, and preventing the administration from promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion,” OMB wrote.

The White House said it also opposes provisions in the bill that would prohibit the closure of the U.S. military prison facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and restrict the ability of the VA to require Covid-19 vaccines for healthcare personnel.

The bigger picture: Republicans in the House say they want to pass all the 2025 spending bills before leaving town for summer recess in early August, but culture war battles could slow that effort. Democrats complain that the GOP policy riders are a waste of time because they have no chance of being enacted in the final legislation. A similar dispute occurred during the debate over the current year’s spending bills, which ended with Republicans dropping most of the contentious policy riders from the fiscal year 2024 VA and military construction bill.