Rep. Mac Thornberry: Veto threat undercuts US position in world

President Obama's threats to veto defense budget proposals leave U.S. looking weak, Rep. Mac Thornberry says.

The head of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday blasted President Obama's threats to veto recent defense budget proposals as undermining national security efforts and emboldening international adversaries looking for U.S. weakness.

The comments from Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, at an Atlantic Council speech step up Republican attacks on the president over his opposition to their fiscal 2016 funding plans, which conservatives have argued are the bare minimum needed to keep the military operational.

"Nothing would send a stronger message (to adversaries overseas) than for the president to sign the defense bills he has asked for," Thornberry said. "We have a chance to meet the lower ragged edge of what it takes to defend the country, or to play politics."

Obama has threatened to veto the budget measures over Republicans' refusal to remove spending caps on a host of government agencies, instead getting around military money limits by adding extra funds to the temporary overseas war account.

Hill Republicans have seized on that stance as "blocking pay raises for the military to get more money for the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency."

Thornberry repeated that refrain during his Tuesday speech but went further, calling the veto pledge "political hysteria" that reflects a lack of a coherent national defense strategy from the White House.

He again called for lethal assistance for Ukrainian forces in the fight against Russia, labeling Obama's strategy in the region so far closer to appeasement than a real response. Both the House and Senate draft of the annual defense authorization bill include language supporting that move.

And he lamented a stronger defense vision from Obama on Iraq, North Korea and a host of other international threats.

But much of the speech was reserved for larger defense theory concerns, with historical arguments that domestic program funding focus has undermined a strong military strategy.

The House and Senate are expected to send the annual defense authorization bill — one of the budget measures facing Obama's veto threats — to a conference committee in coming days. That could set up a showdown with the president on the funding and strategy issues before the end of the summer.