A significant number of Democrats voted for the defense authorization Friday despite pressure from their leadership to oppose it over how it would fund the Pentagon.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other Democratic leaders oppose the increased funding for the Pentagon’s war fund (Overseas Contingency Operations) to circumvent spending limits under the 2011 budget deal that implemented sequestration. But 41 Democrats nonetheless voted for the defense bill that usually attracts a wide bipartisan coalition.
Most of the Democrats who voted for it are vulnerable lawmakers who will be top GOP targets in the 2016 election cycle or serve on the House Armed Services Committee, which crafted the legislation.
Pelosi, though, said the defense authorization “perpetuates instability” and sets unrealistic funding for the Pentagon budget. She suggested the vote further demonstrated that a majority of Democrats could sustain a presidential veto of legislation adhering to the GOP budget framework.
“Democrats stand for a strong national defense, and today, our members sent a strong message in support of giving our men and women in uniform and our military overall the certainty they need, not Republican budget gimmicks,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Two of the defecting Democrats, Reps. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) and Patrick Murphy (Fla.), are running for Senate. A vote against the defense authorization could have risked attack ads accusing them of not supporting the military, especially in a statewide race compared with a district race.
Duckworth is also an Iraq War veteran and serves on the Armed Services panel.