December 19, 2012

House, Senate panels OK sweeping defense bill

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - House and Senate negotiators reached agreement Tuesday on a $633 billion defense bill that would tighten sanctions on Iran, increase security at diplomatic missions worldwide after the deadly Sept. 11 raid in Libya and presses the military on possible options to end the bloodshed in Syria.

The sweeping policy bill responds to the new threats and upheaval around the globe while still providing billions for the decade-plus war in Afghanistan. It also reflects deficit-driven reductions in federal spending after Pentagon budgets have nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

The bill would authorize $528 billion for the Defense Department's base budget, $17 billion for defense and nuclear programs in the Energy Department and $88.5 billion for the war in Afghanistan.

The top Republicans and Democrats on the Armed Services committees announced completion of the bill at a Capitol Hill news conference in which they highlighted the rare instance of bipartisanship in a divided Congress. "It can, in fact, be done," said Rep. Adam Smith, of Washington statel.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said the opportunity to "represent our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines is the reason why we work together in a bipartisan way to accomplish this bill."

Election-year politics and changes in society shaped the final measure. Negotiators kept a Senate-passed provision sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., that expands health insurance coverage for military women and their dependents who decide to have abortions in cases of rape and incest.

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