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House Nearing Passage of Defense Budget - 2001-09-21


Members of the Republican-led House of Representatives put aside their differences over President Bush's missile defense plan as they neared passage of a $343 billion defense spending bill.

The bill contains $8.2 billion for missile defense programs, just short of what the administration had requested. The version before the Democratic-controlled Senate calls for $7 billion for missile defense.

House Democrats had planned to seek a cut of $1 billion from missile defense funds, but abandoned the effort for now in an effort to show the world a united front.

Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts said he did not want a vigorous debate on the issue to be interpreted as a sign of division. "We do not want anyone outside this country to misunderstand," he said. We do not want anyone to misapprehend the degree of unity, determination here in America."

The House bill also includes money for a 5 to 10 percent pay raise for service personnel, the largest military pay increase in nearly two decades.

The bill does not include additional money likely needed for the U.S. war against terrorism. Lawmakers say the administration is assessing what will be needed. They say the extra funds would likely be added in a joint conference, when House and Senate negotiators resolve differences between their two bills.

Lawmakers said last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington highlighted the need to bolster U.S. security.

Republican Congressman Bob Stump of Arizona is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "The terrorists actions were deliberate and calculated," he said. "Our response must be as well. Once again our armed forces are being called upon to defend this great nation, this time from the scourge of terrorism. I have no doubt they will rise to the occasion, but we must ensure that they have the proper tools and resources to do the job now and in the future."

House members expressed support for passage of the bill, which is expected next week. The Senate has yet to act on the measure.

Meanwhile, the House Government Reform Committee held a hearing on ways to fight terrorism. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a member of current Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud party, was the key witness.

Just days after Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States would consider seeking help from Syria and Iran in the fight against terrorism, Me. Netanyahu urged the administration to do otherwise. "If we include these terrorist regimes in the coalition, then the alliance against terror will be defeated from within," he said. We might perhaps achieve a short term objective of destroying a one-terrorist fiefdom, but it will preclude the possibility of overall victory. Such a coalition will necessarily meltdown because of its own internal contradictions. We might win a battle, but we will certainly lose the war."

Although the State Department cites Syria and Iran as among nations that support state-sponsored terrorism, Secretary Powell this week welcomed statements from both governments offering to assist anti-terrorism efforts.

Mr. Netanyahu said nothing less than the survival of civilization is at stake in the emerging international fight against terrorism. He warned that if terrorists are not stopped, their attacks would continue and become more lethal.

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