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House passes $638B defense spending bill
The House on Friday authorized $638 billion in military spending for the coming fiscal year, including $86 billion for the war in Afghanistan, while attempting to address reports of the rising number of sexual assaults in the military.
Members voted 315 to 108 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014, which reforms how the armed services handle sex-related crimes and bolsters protections for victims.
The bill eliminates military commanders' ability to dismiss findings of a court martial in certain sexual assault cases and it mandates the dismissal or dishonorable discharge for any member of the armed services convicted of a sex crime.
It also allows victims of such crimes to apply for a permanent transfer from their station or unit.
The bill must be reconciled with the Senate's version, which is still be developed. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted late Thursday, on a 23-3 vote, to forward its bill to the full chamber.
House members on Friday voted down an amendment, 249-147, from Rep. Adam Smith, Washington Democrat, that would have directed President Obama to devise a plan to close the terrorist detainee prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"The bottom line is we do not need Guantanamo," said Mr. Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
House GOP Speaker John A. Boehner praised the bill after the final vote, in particular the provision on Guantanamo.
"I am pleased the bill maintains the bipartisan prohibition against transferring terrorist detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to the United States," the Ohio Republican said. "I am also pleased that the bill takes significant steps to address the rampant number of sexual assault cases in the military.
The president has threatened to veto the bill because it prevent him from closing the detention facility in Cuba and limits his ability to reduce nuclear weapons, the Associated Press reported.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, shepherded through an amendment that calls on the Pentagon to stop purchasing weapons from Rosoboronexport, a Russian arms dealer, citing Moscow's support for the Assad regime that is waging war with rebels in Syria.
Rep. James Moran, Virginia Democrat, said there's been bipartisan support for the prohibition in the past, only to see the Department of Defense ignore it.
"This has to be fixed," he said. "This is not a sustainable situation."
The amendment passed, 423 to 0.
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About the Author
Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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