$633 bil­lion de­fense bill eas­ily passes in House

Bill $1.7 bil­lion more than Pres­i­dent Obama re­quested; veto still pos­si­ble.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Donna Cas­sata HOWTHEY VOTED De­fense fund­ing bill

WASHINGTON — The House on Thurs­day over­whelm­ingly passed a $633 bil­lion de­fense bill for next year de­spite Pen­tagon com­plaints that it spares out­dated but po­lit­i­cally pop­u­lar weapons at the ex­pense of the mil­i­tary’s abil­ity to fight.

The vote was 315-107 and sent the leg­is­la­tion to the Se­nate, where lead­ers hoped to wrap up the mea­sure. The White House had threat­ened a veto of ear­lier ver­sions of the bill, and spokesman Rep.John Carter (R) Y Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) Y Rep. Michael McCaul (R) Y Rep. La­mar Smith (R) Y Jay Car­ney said Thurs­day that the threat still stands.

The far-reach­ing pol­icy bill that cov­ers the cost of ships, air­craft, weapons and mil­i­tary per­son­nel would au­tho­rize $528 bil­lion for the De­fense De­part­ment’s base bud­get, $17 bil­lion for de­fense and nu­clear pro­grams in the En­ergy De­part­ment and $88.5 bil­lion for the war in Afghan- is­tan.

The bill is $1.7 bil­lion more than Obama re­quested.

House Repub­li­cans and Democrats de­bated the mea­sure against the back­drop of high-stakes talks to avert the so-called fis­cal cliff of au­to­matic tax hikes and spend­ing cuts and the loud cry for a sweep­ing deal to slash the deficit.

Democrats ar­gued that the bill runs counter to de­mands for fis­cal dis­ci­pline.

“This bill is more money than the Pen­tagon wants,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “We’re just throw­ing money at them.”

Specif­i­cally, the bill spares a ver­sion of the Global Hawk un­manned air­craft, in­cludes tank up­grades and money for ar­mored ve­hi­cles.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon Panetta crit­i­cized the pres­sure on the Pen­tagon to keep weapons it doesn’t want. “Air­craft, ships, tanks, bases, even those that have out­lived their use­ful­ness, have a nat­u­ral po­lit­i­cal con­stituency. Readi­ness does not,” Panetta said.

“What’s more, readi­ness is too of­ten sac­ri­ficed in fa­vor of a larger and less ef­fec­tive force. I am de­ter­mined to avoid that out­come,” he said.

House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., in­sisted the bill “safe­guards mil­i­tary readi­ness in times of de­clin­ing bud­gets.”

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