Insisting they are stronger on defense than the president, Republicans crafted a bill that calls for construction of a missile defense site on the East Coast that the military opposes, bars reductions in the nation's nuclear arsenal, and reaffirms the indefinite detention without trial of suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens captured on American soil.
The divisive GOP provisions will have a short shelf life, as the Democratic-controlled Senate is likely to scrap many of them and stick to the spending level in the deficit-cutting agreement.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta met privately last week with senators to argue for the president's proposed budget, a blueprint the Pentagon says is based on a new military strategy focused on Asia, the Mideast and cyberspace as the nation emerges from two long wars. The Senate Armed Services Committee crafts its version of the budget next week.
The House bill is not only a political salvo against Obama, but a reflection of the stranglehold the defense industry has on Congress.
Weapons, aircraft carriers and jet fighters mean jobs back home, and lawmakers are loath to cut funds for the military, the biggest government program outside entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security.
In a political shot on the House floor, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R., Calif.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, accused Democrats of "taking all of the jobs out of the military."
For the endless Washington talk of dealing with the nation's debilitating debt, the bill outlines a base defense budget of $554 billion, including nuclear weapons spending, plus $88 billion for the war in Afghanistan and counterterrorism efforts.
Conservative and tea party Republicans prevailed on a series of amendments Friday, even dealing a blow to the business community and GOP establishment on one measure.
Reviving Cold War arguments, they rejected the notion that Senate ratification of an arms control treaty with Russia in December 2010 has long been settled and that the president has the authority to enforce the pact.
The House soundly backed amendments prohibiting the president from making unilateral reductions to the U.S. nuclear arsenal and imposing limits on the ability of the administration to cut the stockpile.
Democratic Rep. Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey failed to sway his colleagues with the argument that careful and deliberate elimination of nuclear weapons has been a bipartisan effort by presidents from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to George W. Bush and Obama.