House Republicans passed a compromise $612 billion defense authorization bill on Thursday, the first day of the new fiscal year, which includes a pay raise for troops and an overhaul of the military retirement system, over objections from the White House that the measure uses budget gimmicks to avoid fully funding military needs.
President Obama has promised to veto the measure if it is approved by the Senate, which could happen as early as next week.
Pentagon leaders have backed that move, arguing that Republican lawmakers' plans to use temporary war funds to get around government-wide spending caps that Congress itself imposed would undermine national security.
In passing the measure, House Republicans rejected that claim, arguing that the authorization bill fully funds military requests and mistakenly shifts what should be appropriations fights to the policy-focused authorization bill.
"This bill is good for the troops, it's good for the country, and that ought to override everything else," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.
The committee's personnel panel chairman, Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., accused Obama of "using our military men and women as political pawns to get more money for non-defense spending."
But Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the committee's ranking Democrat, said the budget issues mar an otherwise laudable bill.
The final 270-156 vote saw 36 Democrats support the legislation, putting the final tally 20 votes short of what would be needed to override a presidential veto.
At the request of Pentagon officials, the authorization bill would slow growth in the Basic Allowance for Housing, reducing it to cover only 95 percent of troops' average off-base housing costs over the next few years.
Another provision of the bill would increase Tricare co-pays next year for individuals filling prescriptions at off-base pharmacies.
The measure also includes language prohibiting the Defense Department from closing down detention facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; provisions to supply defensive weapons to Ukrainian fighters engaged with Russian separatists; and new Pentagon acquisition reforms.
The bill would prohibit defense officials from starting a new round of base closures, and includes new protections for sexual assault victims in the ranks.
Lawmakers also added language allowing commanders to develop local policies for both personal and military firearms on base for self-defense. Those policies would not override state or municipal laws, but would allow different defense facilities to adopt differing weapons policies.
The annual defense authorization bill has been signed into law for more than 50 consecutive years, a point of pride even amid the current bitter partisan divides in Congress.
Aides said the measure has been vetoed four times over that stretch, but each time a compromise with the president was reached.
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.