Wednesday, June 19, 2013
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Ignoring a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House approved a $642 billion defense budget Friday that breaks a deficit-cutting deal with President Obama and restricts his authority in an election-year challenge.
The House voted 299-120 for the fiscal 2013 spending blueprint that authorizes money for weapons, aircraft, ships and the war in Afghanistan -- $8 billion more than Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to last summer in the clamor for fiscal austerity.
Insisting they are stronger on defense than the president, Republicans crafted a bill that calls for construction of a missile defense site on the East Coast that the military opposes, bars reductions in the nation's nuclear arsenal and reaffirms the indefinite detention without trial of suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens captured on American soil.
The divisive GOP provisions will have a short shelf life, as the Democratic-controlled Senate is likely to scrap many of them and stick to the spending level in the deficit-cutting agreement.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met privately last week with senators to argue for the president's proposed budget, a blueprint the Pentagon says is based on a new military strategy focused on Asia, the Mideast and cyberspace as the nation emerges from two long wars. The Senate Armed Services Committee crafts its version of the budget next week.
The House bill is not only a political salvo against Obama, who nevertheless gets high marks after the killing of Osama bin Laden and success in the war on terrorism, but a reflection of the stranglehold the defense industry has on Congress. Weapons, aircraft carriers and jet fighters mean jobs back home, and lawmakers are loath to cut funds for the military, the biggest government program outside entitlements like Medicare and Social Security.
In a political shot on the House floor, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, accused Democrats of "taking all of the jobs out of the military."
For the endless talk of dealing with the deficit, the bill outlines a base budget of $554 billion, plus $88 billion for the Afghanistan war and counterterrorism.