$633 billion defense bill easily passes in House
Bill $1.7 billion more than President Obama requested; veto still possible.
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on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a $633 billion defense bill for next year despite Pentagon complaints that it spares outdated but politically popular weapons at the expense of the military’s ability to fight.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.”