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House OKs defense bill with base closings, pay raises
Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- The House overcame its objections to base closings to give final passage to a massive $343.3 billion defense authorization bill Thursday.
The bill includes pay raises for all service members, an increase in anti-terrorism funds and full funding of President Bush's prized missile defense efforts, for which he is pulling out of a 29-year-old arms control treaty with Russia.
The vote was 382-40.
The bill authorizes spending by the Defense Department and military efforts of the Energy Department for the budget year that began Oct. 2. It contains a $33 billion increase over 2001 spending, up 10.6 percent.
The House Armed Services Committee chairman, Rep. Bob Stump, R-Ariz., said the bill "represents the ultimate compromise because it has something in it to disappoint virtually everyone involved," noting that he was among those who opposed base closings.
At the same time, he told the House, it meets the goal of "protecting the welfare of our fighting men and women during at this time of crisis and providing the president and secretary of defense the needed tools to accomplish their difficult mission."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pressed hard for a base-closings round in 2003, and said he would recommend that Bush veto the bill unless that was included, saying expected savings of $3 billion or more a year were needed for essential military activities.
The Senate approved that plan, but House hostility to another round of base closings delayed passage by a month. Lawmakers were skeptical about touted savings and opposed shutdowns while the nation is both at war and mired in an economic slump.
Ultimately, leaders of the House Armed Services Committee came up with a compromise moving the round back to 2005, when the economy might be recovering, and the war against terrorism might be over.