Mon, Aug 06, 2007 - Page 1 News List

House grants Pentagon US$459.6 billion budget

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON

The US House of Representatives early yesterday approved more money for the Pentagon but not the Iraq War, but Democrats signaled plans to resume a more contentious debate over the war after this month's recess.

The defense appropriations bill passed by the House 395-13 provides US$459.6 billion for the Pentagon for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 and maps out spending priorities.

The Senate is not scheduled to vote on the defense spending bill until this fall.

The House's version would add money for equipment for the National Guard and Reserve, provide for 12,000 additional soldiers and Marines, and increase spending for defense health care and military housing.

The massive military measure represents a nearly US$40 billion increase over current levels.

But it was US$3.5 billion less than US President George W. Bush requested. The White House has criticized many provisions but stopped short of a veto threat.

The budget does not include an extra US$147 billion in Iraq War funds that the administration wants Congress to approve this autumn, around the time US Iraq commander General David Petraeus reports to lawmakers on the war.

More than US$600 billion in war checks have already been written for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bill strikes US$139 million from a missile defense project the Bush administration plans for Eastern Europe.

House aides said the cut would prevent construction on a missile interceptor site in Poland, the most controversial part of the project, which has angered the Russian government.

The spending bill provides funding for an additional 7,000 Army soldiers -- bringing the total to 489,000 -- and 5,000 Marines, raising them to 180,000.

It also provides for improved health care for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was one of the last bills lawmakers approved in a late-night session before joining the Senate on recess and followed days of partisan bickering over House rules, exacerbated by little sleep.

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