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Obama Threatens to Veto Defense Authorization Bill

President Barack Obama said Friday that he will veto the 2011 defense authorization bill if it retains House-passed funds for two programs that the administration wants stripped from the package.

The House passed the $726 billion package on Friday, but Democratic leaders failed to get enough votes to strip funding for C-17 planes and a $485 million alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been pressing Obama to veto the bill if it includes these provisions, both of which he has been trying to cut for years.

“I stand squarely behind Secretary Gates’ position on the JSF second engine and C-17 programs,” Obama said in a statement. “Our military does not want or need these programs being pushed by the Congress, and should Congress ignore this fact, I will veto any such legislation so that it can be returned to me without those provisions.”

House Democratic leaders were prepared for the veto threat.

The inclusion of funds for the engine program is “wasteful and unnecessary,” Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said Thursday. “I fully expect the president to follow through with his threatened veto of the Defense Authorization Act if the F-35 Extra Engine Program is in the final legislation.”

In an unusual statement, Larson bashed the Democratic-controlled House for voting to spend $3 billion for the program despite opposition from the military and the president.

“Two administrations have tried to end the program, yet Congress keeps ramming it down the throat of our military,” he said, adding that he is “encouraged” by the Senate’s decision to leave out the funding.

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