- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002


House Republicans yesterday pushed for approval of the biggest increase in military spending in a generation, including money for a new mobile artillery cannon that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld doesn't want.

Lawmakers moved toward a vote even as Democrats fumed about provisions in the $383 billion measure outlining 2003 defense spending that would exempt the military from major environmental laws.

Also, the White House budget office said President Bush's advisers would recommend a veto if the spending bill tells him not to cancel the $11 billion self-loading Crusader cannon now in development.

The House's Republican leaders beat back a Democratic attempt to force votes on the environmental provisions and on various other proposals concerning U.S. nuclear weapons policy, base closures and missile defense.

Despite their complaints, Democrats mindful of the war on terror were eager to show support for the overall bill's increased military spending.

"This legislation will allow us to wage war effectively in the year ahead," said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, but "this is symptomatic of a pattern we have seen in the last few months, with a majority that wants to close down debate on issues that are critical to the American people."

Republicans argued the rules for debate were fair, and the measure answered the nation's military needs in time of war. House Armed Services Chairman Bob Stump, Arizona Republican, said the bill provides the largest real increase in Pentagon spending, in inflation-adjusted dollars, since 1966.

"We are starting to dig out of the budget hole we created after 13 years of budget cuts," Mr. Stump said.

Debate was expected on proposals to take money away from sea- and space-based national missile-defense programs in favor of land-based interceptors and to prohibit the use of nuclear bombs to demolish deeply buried military facilities.

Democrats also planned to offer an amendment that would allow female troops posted overseas to undergo privately paid abortions at military hospitals.

Meanwhile last night, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said his panel, which completed its plan for a roughly $390 billion defense bill behind closed doors, moved to cut some $1 billion from Mr. Bush's request for $7.8 billion to develop a system to intercept missiles.

Most of that was shifted to shipbuilding, the Michigan Democrat said, and some went to tighten security at nuclear facilities and other uses. Mr. Levin, who spoke to reporters after the panel finished the bill, said he will offer details of it today.

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