The Bush administration today threatened to a veto a House defense spending bill over a 3.5 percent pay raise for U.S. soldiers and a $40/month increase in benefits for military widows, among other provisions. The legislation passed the House today 397-27.
ThinkProgress noted last night that the White House opposed the pay raise for troops:
Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill. […]
The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.
Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”
The White House says it also opposes:
– a $40/month allowance for military survivors, saying the current benefits are “sufficient”
— additional benefits for surviving family members of civilian employees
— price controls for prescription drugs under TRICARE, the military’s health care plan for military personnel and their dependents
House Minority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said today he was “shocked and disappointed in the President’s threat,” noting that Bush’s problems with the bill are over measures that benefit “the very people who sacrifice the most in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and who serve at home and overseas.”
UPDATE: VoteVets chairman and Iraq veteran Jon Soltz adds:
Believe me, even with the current benefits that get paid out by the Department of Defense and insurance that many troops buy into, those who lose spouses in Iraq aren’t sleeping in mounds of cash. The increase proposed by Democrats will mean a hell of a lot. At VoteVets.org, we’ve heard absolute horror stories on the type of cutbacks that widows and widowers have had to make because the government doesn’t provide enough to those who lose a loved one in war.