Did Obama Just Threaten To Veto Defense Funding Over The New AUMF?

Well here's a level of spunk we aren't use to seeing from this White House. Last week the House Armed Services Committee approved language to the defense funding bill that, in the eyes of critics, would indefinitely expand the "war on terror." Republicans countered that the bill would provide greater legal authorization for operations the administration is effectively conducting. House Democrats were moving to strike the new language related to an expanded authorization to use military force against terrorists, but until now, the White House has largely stayed silent.

No longer--they just released a statement saying they'd be willing to veto the bill if the provisions remain, stating, "The Administration strongly objects to section 1034 which, in purporting to affirm the conflict, would effectively recharacterize its scope and would risk creating confusion regarding applicable standards. At a minimum, this is an issue that merits more extensive consideration before possible inclusion." The statement adds, "If the final bill presented to the President includes these provisions that challenge critical Executive branch authority, the President’s senior advisors would recommend a veto." 1034 refers to the new AUMF language.

What's unclear is whether the AUMF language on its own would prompt a veto, or whether the administration is more concerned about the other provisions it sees as encroachments on executive branch authority in the bill--namely the transfer restrictions, the changes to the detention review process, and language curtailing the use of federal courts to try suspected terrorists. The administration has folded on similar restrictions before. It's hard to know sincere they are about vetoing the bill over this--the administration also threatens to veto the bill over provisions related to the F-35 and the new START treaty. 

I also wouldn't be surprised if Rep. Buck McKeon was a little angry about the veto threat--his office suggested the revised bill reflected a good faith attempt to meet the administration halfway. At minimum though, this strengthens the hand of Democrats in Congress who have been arguing that the administration believes it has all the authority it needs in these matters. 

Still, I'm somewhat surprised that the administration has adopted the civil libertarian line on this, that at the very least, such an expansion of authority deserves more consideration than simply being tucked into a funding bill. Never before has such an authorization been passed this way.

*edited for clarity

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