The fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill is one step closer to congressional approval. But it's still far away from becoming law.

On Tuesday, the defense policy bill passed a procedural hurdle in the Senate, picking up enough support for what is expected to be an easy final approval in that chamber later this week.

The measure includes an overhaul of the military retirement system, reauthorization of a host of military pays and benefits, provisions to send defensive weapons to Ukrainian fighters and a mandate to reform the military's acquisition processes.

But it also contains language supporting a $38 billion plus-up in overseas contingency funds designed to work around mandatory defense spending caps for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, a move that Democrats decry as a budgeting gimmick and that President Obama repeatedly has vowed to veto.

Earlier this month, the authorization bill was passed by the House on a 270-156 vote, well short of the 290 needed to override a presidential veto.

Tuesday's Senate tally totaled 73-26. But before the vote was finalized, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., downplayed any significance in that number.

"Our Democrats have stated, without any question, if it comes time (to) sustain a presidential veto, that will be done," Reid said.

Sen, Jack Reed, D-R.I., senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised the defense bill as mostly laudable but with one disappointingly fatal flaw — the use of overseas contingency funds.

"If we use this scheme this year, maybe with the good intentions and the honest intentions of just one year to get us ahead, it will be easier to do it next year and the year after and the year after that, ensuring that this imbalance between security and domestic spending continues," Reed said.

Despite the legislation moving ahead, Republicans were furious with the looming veto threat, accusing Obama and Democrats of playing politics with troops' paychecks. Democrats so far have blocked any appropriations bills from passing out of the Senate, arguing they are irresponsible plans that face the same presidential veto.

A final Senate vote on the authorization bill is expected Thursday.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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