House OKs defense bill despite veto threat
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a $601.4 billion defense spending bill despite a veto threat by the White House.
The House passed the bill to fund the Pentagon operation for the fiscal year beginning on October 1 on a 384-to-23 vote after many hours of debate about the measure and 58 amendments.
The White House on Thursday objected to the bill over 10 provisions, including a cut of over $700 million in missile defense and a move to review the role of foreign subsidies in a $35 billion aerial tanker deal.
"If the final bill presented to the president contains any of the following provisions, the president's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill," the White House said in a statement.
The House Armed Services Committee last week on a 61-to-0 vote adopted many amendments despite the White House veto threat.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has already passed a similar bill, which is due to be debated in the full Senate in June. Once each house has passed its version of the spending bill, it must be reconciled by House and Senate negotiators before the president can sign it into law.
The White House argued that the House bill would "retroactively change the rules of the KC-45 tanker competition, risk extended litigation, and could delay the Air Force's ability to obtain equipment that is critical for combat and humanitarian relief operations."
The Government Accountability Office is due to rule by June 19 on a protest by Boeing Co about the aircraft contract, awarded in February to Northrop Grumman Corp and its European subcontractor, Airbus parent EADS.
But lawmakers who back Boeing have vowed to block the Northrop deal regardless of how the protest is decided.
The veto threat also covers provisions that would require the videotaping of all intelligence interrogations and would ban private contractors from carrying out interrogations, a job lawmakers said should be reserved for the government alone.
The White House said the measures would limit the United States' ability to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack and could have unintended consequences.
The Bush administration also objected to -- but refrained from issuing a veto threat about -- more than 20 other provisions, including the addition of more than $9 billion in funding for weapons not requested by the Pentagon.
The White House said cuts to funding to start building missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic could jeopardize U.S. security and delay the fielding of weapons meant to protect against an emerging missile threat from Iran.
The Democratic-controlled House approved $10.2 billion in funding for missile defense, $719 million less than the Pentagon requested, but $212.6 million above the current level.
The Senate Armed Services Committee bill fully funded the administration's plan to start deploying up to 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
The White House also threatened to veto the overall spending bill if it did not drop a provision that would shield the measure from a recent executive order against earmarks.
President George W. Bush issued the order to halt "wasteful and excessive pork-barrel spending" and make the budget process more transparent and accountable, the White House said.
But Rep. Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who chairs the committee, and the ranking Republican, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, argued that lawmakers needed flexibility to add weapons to the budget that had been forgotten by the Pentagon.
"We've put in systems that save lives that the Pentagon did not think about," Hunter said on the floor of the House, citing added funding for armor for Army trucks, greater use of unmanned airplanes, and equipment to defuse roadside bombs.
The White House also cited objections, but no veto threat, to the addition of $3.9 billion for 15 additional Boeing C-17 cargo planes and $523 million as a down payment on 20 more Lockheed Martin Corp F-22 fighters in fiscal 2010.
It also criticized the addition of $526 million to keep General Electric and Britain's Rolls-Royce working on an alternate engine for the F-35 fighter jet.
The second engine would vie against an engine built by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp. The Senate Armed Services Committee recommended adding $465 million to support the alternate engine.
(Editing by Gary Hill & Ian Geoghegan)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this