Despite claims from conservative critics, President Obama's veto of the 2016 defense authorization bill will not hold up next year's military pay raise.
The Thursday veto will jeopardize a host of other specialty pays and bonuses, and has inflamed an already bitter budget standoff between Obama and congressional Republicans.
But it does not alter plans for a 1.3 percent raise for troops effective Jan. 1, which is ensured regardless of how the veto fight shakes out.
That's because the defense bill is silent on the 2016 military raise. Obama had pledged to set it at 1.3 percent — below expected civilian wage growth — and lawmakers chose to allow that target to stand unchallenged rather than officially substitute their own wage hike in the defense authorization bill.
It's the same tack lawmakers took in the 2015 defense bill, and it leaves Obama's order, issued in August, as the final word on military pay for 2016.
As such, the 1.3 percent raise will go into effect Jan. 1.
The defense authorization bill still affects things like enlistment bonuses, hazard pays, and other specialty compensation for which authorization must be renewed each year. If lawmakers has substituted their own pay raise or tried to supercede the presidential order in the bill, Obama's veto would have affected that, too.
However, the pay raise certainty did not stop a parade of Republican lawmakers from claiming that Obama's move would halt military pay increases and take money from their wallets.
In a protest news conference just minutes before Obama's veto, GOP lawmakers who served in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan war era took turns bashing the commander in chief for turning his back on the troops.
Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., said the veto "will block a mediocre pay raise that the president already reduced," adding "now they won't even get his pathetic 1.3 percent raise."
Russell serves on the House Armed Services Committee, which decided against codifying a larger pay raise in its early drafts of the defense authorization bill.
The pay raise claim was repeated in numerous news releases and interviews around Capitol Hill Thursday night.
On Fox News, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Senate Armed Services Committee's personnel panel, claimed the veto nixes "a pay raise for the troops" as well as "better benefits for their families," even though outside advocates have complained about a host of housing stipend cuts and new medical co-pays in the measure.
In remarks before his veto, Obama criticized the decision by Republican lawmakers to base their $612 billion in defense budget authority around plans to use overseas contingency operations accounts to get around mandatory spending caps that Congress put in place, a move he and Democrats have labeled a budget gimmick.
"Let's have a budget that properly funds our national security as well as economic security," Obama said. "Let's make sure that we're able, in a constructive way, to reform our military spending to make it sustainable over the long term."
The House's reconsideration of the bill is set for Nov. 5. Republicans say they are hopeful they can convince enough Democrats to rebuke Obama and save the bill, but the chamber vote on the measure earlier this month fell 20 votes short of what would be needed to override the veto.
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.