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House passes $636 billion military bill

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-17

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a massive military spending bill to defray annual expenses, fund operations in Afghanistan and pay for the troop withdrawal from Iraq.

REUTERS - The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $636 billion military spending bill on Wednesday that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also includes money to extend jobless aid for two months.

By a vote of 395 to 34, the House approved the bill and sent it to the Senate, which is expected to act as soon as Friday, when current funding expires.

The bill covers Pentagon operations through Sept. 30, 2010. But the $124 billion approved for ongoing wars probably will not be enough to cover President Barack Obama's plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

The spending bill represents a partial victory for Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had sought to eliminate unwanted weapons programs over the objections of lawmakers who represent areas where they are manufactured.

Congress eliminated funding for Lockheed-Martin Corp's  F-22 fighter jet, but provided 10 more Boeing Co C-17 transport planes than the Pentagon asked for, at a cost of $2.5 billion.

The Pentagon keeps alive two programs the Pentagon did not seek to fund: the troubled VH-71 presidential helicopter program and an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, made by General Electric Co and Britain's Rolls-Royce Group Plc.

The Pentagon said it would not recommend a veto despite the unwanted measures.

The Pentagon is operating under temporary funding that is set to expire on Friday. Congress is expected to extend the temporary funding if the spending bill is not signed into law by then.

The bill includes 1,720 earmarks costing $4.2 billion for lawmakers' pet projects, according to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

It also extends a handful of unrelated programs that otherwise would expire at the end of the year

Programs extended through Feb. 28, 2010, include:

* Jobless benefits and health-insurance subsidies for the unemployed

* The antiterrorism Patriot Act, which gives law enforcement enhanced investigation powers

* Current reimbursement rates for doctors under the national health-insurance program for the elderly, averting a 21 percent pay cut

* Current highway and transit programs

* Loosened regulations designed to encourage small business lending. The Small Business Administration will continue to waive or reduce its loan fees and back 90 percent of the loans it oversees

* A law that allows satellite television providers to retransmit broadcast-TV signals.

 

Date created : 2009-12-17

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