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*-- Senate passes $612B defense spending bill despite White House veto threat --*

WASHINGTON (UPI) - Despite a veto threat from U.S. President Barack Obama, the Senate on Thursday passed the annual defense spending bill for $612 billion.

The Senate voted 71-25 on the bill, which would include a 1.3 percent pay raise for troops and an overhaul of the military's retirement program.

The White House said Thursday Obama would likely veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) if it was passed by the Senate because an increase in defense spending should be met with an increase in non-defense spending.

"If this bill were presented to the president, the president's senior advisers would recommend to the president that he veto it," a statement from the White House's Office of Management and Budget said.

Several Democratic Senators also said they would vote against the NDAA because they opposed the $38 billion earmarked for the Overseas Contingency Operations account, the Pentagon's war fund, The Hill reported.

The bill had wide support from Senate Republicans, except for Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., who both voted against it.

"If we don't make it possible for us to equip and train and retain the finest military force in the world, why is it a higher priority to object to the method of funding?" Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said prior to the vote.

The bill now goes to a conference in the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed a $579 billion version of the bill June 11.


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