US House okays $422 billion arms bill
WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives on Saturday approved a final $422 billion bill for defence programmes that backs next year’s round of military base closures and kills a proposed $23.5 billion Air Force deal with Boeing Co.
The defence bill also authorises a 20,000 increase in the army’s troop strength and a 3,000 increase for the Marine Corps in 2005, reflecting lawmakers’ concerns that forces have been stretched by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It provides $10 billion that President George W Bush sought for this year to continue development of a ballistic missile defence system. The house passed the final bill 359-14, sending it to the Senate, which was expected to vote to send the legislation to Bush before Congress breaks next week to campaign for November 2 presidential and congressional elections.
Bowing to a White House veto threat, the final bill dropped a bid by house members to stall by two years the process to start closing and realigning domestic military bases deemed obsolete or unnecessary.
House members initially voted for the delay as lawmakers whose districts’ economies may depend heavily on the bases argued they should not be cut while US forces were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lawmakers also said the Pentagon should first look at overseas bases before trimming domestic facilities. reuters