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House OKs defense spending bill with 1.8% pay raise

Jun. 20, 2014 - 03:53PM   |  
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The House approved a $570 billion defense spending proposal on Friday that would save the A-10 aircraft fleet, prohibit another base closure round and reject most of the Pentagon’s planned pay and benefits trims.

The vote came after two days of floor amendments and repeated complaints from military leaders that Congress has again failed to help them hold down long-term spending, instead rejecting program cuts to avoid short-term pain.

The measure includes $128 billion for military personnel spending, $830 million less than what the White House had asked for in its fiscal 2015 spending plan, and $31.6 billion for military health and family programs, $360 million below what the White House wanted.

But even with the cut, the plan includes fully funding housing stipends next year and a 1.8 percent pay raise, $100 million more for defense commissaries, and no major restructuring of the Tricare program — all items Pentagon leaders had strongly lobbied for over the last four months.

Earlier in the week, White House officials objected to those changes, saying a smaller, 1 percent pay raise and trims in other military benefits were needed to ensure that troops’ training and equipment weren’t jeopardized.

“Delaying DoD’s holistic package of proposed initial changes will only result in increased costs, degradation in training and modernization efforts, and risks to the force,” officials said in a statement.

But keeping true to the defense authorization bill vote in May, House members by a 340-73 vote rejected those arguments. In both cases, lawmakers said that the lower pay and tightened benefits would hurt troops’ morale and quality of life, creating a different set of problems.

The chamber once again rejected defense department plans for another base closure round, and in a final-round amendment over Pentagon objections restored money for the Air Force’s A-10s.

The House rejected a proposal to prohibit funds from being used to conduct combat operations in Iraq. On Thursday, President Obama announced plans to send up to 300 military advisers to the country to help with anti-insurgent operations, but promised that America would not be drawn into another open-ended military operation there.

Representatives also included a one-year ban on transfers of prisoners out of the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, following controversy surrounding the prisoner swap to bring home prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Senate members have not yet finalized their defense appropriations proposal, which must be completed before the measures can be reconciled and sent to the White House to be signed into law.

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