House appropriators advanced their $575.7 billion defense spending plan for fiscal 2017 just hours after the White House threatened to veto a similar budget bill and accused lawmakers of over what officials called "gambling with warfighting funds."

The spending plan stays under totals set in a congressional budget agreement last fall but does so by reassigning about $16 billion in temporary war funds to the defense base budget. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., told members of the House Appropriations Committee that it's the only way to meet military needs within the parameters of existing spending caps.

"We are concerned with what we see in the military today," he said.

But Democrats have railed against that plan as a budgeting gimmick, noting that it leaves overseas military operations without any funding past April of next year. Republicans said they’ll push the next president to pass another supplemental early next year to cover that shortfall.

The funding plan is the same general idea as one laid out in the House's draft of the annual defense authorization bill, although the exact figures differ. On Tuesday, the White House issued a veto threat on that authorization legislation, calling the funding plan "dangerous" for troops and the country.

"The bill risks the safety of our men and women fighting to keep America safe, undercuts stable planning and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, dispirits troops and their families, baffles our allies, and emboldens our enemies," the administration statement said.

This is the eighth consecutive year President Barack Obama has threatened to veto annual defense budget legislation, although he only followed through on that threat last year, over similar spending maneuvers.

White House officials also blasted the extra base budget spending as "excess force structure without the money to sustain it, effectively creating hollow force," especially given more restrictive defense spending caps scheduled for coming years.

But Republican House leaders have said those increases are needed to meet current threats. In the appropriations bill, that includes a increase in personnel totaling service end strengths of 5,000 for the active-duty Army, 15,000 for the Army National Guard and Reserve, and 1,000 for the Marine Corps.

Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee warned that those boosts and related personnel costs could total tens of billions of dollars in extra spending over the next five years, creating even more budgeting problems.

The plan also includes a 2.1 percent pay raise for troops, one-half of a percentage point higher 0.5 percent higherthan White House recommendations for 2017 and $330 million more costly for next year alone.

So far, Senate leaders have said they do not plan to go along with the House budget proposals. The Senate Armed Services Committee has offered its own authorization bill draft without the redirected temporary war funding. Senate appropriators have not weighed in on the fight yet.

Despite the veto threat, the full House is expected to adopt its draft of the annual authorization bill later this week.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at

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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