- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Senate increased defense spending by the largest amount in decades yesterday, approving $355.4 billion for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The vote came as the Republican-controlled House, badly divided with the Democratic Senate over non-defense budgetary issues, decided to adjourn until after the Nov. 5 election.

The defense bill boosts spending by $34.4 billion over last year's level, reflecting the increased needs of the war on terrorism and a potential conflict with Iraq. It was the largest real growth in the defense budget since the Reagan administration.

The 93-1 Senate vote sends the bill to President Bush for his signature. The lone dissenting vote in the Senate was cast by Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat. The House approved the measure last week by 409-14.

"This defense budget will provide our troops with the best pay, the best equipment and the best possible training," Mr. Bush said. "It also sends an important signal that we are committed to defending freedom and defeating terror."

The defense bill is only the second of the 13 annual spending bills that Congress has passed. The other bill was also military-related, providing $10.5 billion for military construction projects.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, chairman of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, said it was "imperative we pass this bill before we recess" to ensure the military the support it needs as it prepares for a potential Iraqi war.

With the White House and Senate Democrats unable to agree on spending levels for non-defense federal programs, there was little chance of Congress enacting other appropriations bills before the elections.

The House on yesterday, in a 228-172 vote, approved a fourth temporary-spending measure to keep agencies operating at current-year levels until Nov. 22. The Senate approved the measure by voice vote.

After the vote, the House recessed until the week after the election. Republican leaders said they were prepared to come back before that if the Senate acted on spending bills or other pending legislation, such as a bill to create a homeland security department.

House Republicans have insisted that spending for the 13 appropriations bills be held within the president's goal of $759 billion. Senate Democrats say that is unrealistic because the needs of education, health, environment and other programs, and are demanding at least another $9 billion.

The Senate yesterday did approve a measure to restore a rule requiring a 60-vote majority to overcome an objection to new spending or tax cuts that go beyond established budget levels or that increase the deficit. The rule expired on Sept. 30.

The defense measure increases spending in almost every area, from weapons procurement to payroll. It includes a 4.1 percent pay raise for military personnel and nearly all the $7.4 billion Mr. Bush requested to keep developing a national missile-defense system.

The bill also provides $3.3 billion for 15 C-17 transport aircraft, $2.3 billion for two Aegis destroyers, $3.2 billion for 46 Navy F/A-18 E/F fighters and $3.5 billion to continue developing the Joint Strike Fighter. Another $249 million is allotted for Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles, a key weapon in the Persian Gulf war.


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