The House of Representatives has approved a $383 billion defense spending bill for fiscal year 2003. House passage came early Friday morning after a long day of debate over such issues as the fight against terrorism, missile defense, and key weapons defense programs.
After the marathon debate, the House voted 359-58 for the bill that calls for a 13 percent increase in spending, the largest jump in spending in more than 30 years.
In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush sent Congress plans to substantially increase outlays for homeland defense, to boost military personnel, and provide funding for missile defense.
During the debate on defense authorization, lawmakers from both parties rose to voice support for the bill, saying more money is needed for the fight against terrorism.
"The bipartisan approach this committee has utilized to craft this bill exemplifies our bipartisan and our unwavering commitment to winning our nation's war against terrorists," said Congressmen Jim Turner, a Democrat from Texas.
"It protects our air crews over Afghanistan and Iraq with improved tactical navy electronic warfare aircraft and it supports our fellow allies to meet the missile threat, especially giving early-warning eyes in the sky to Israel and arrow missiles to shoot down SCUDS," said Mark Kirk, a Republican from Florida.
The House-passed bill includes provisions to develop new remote-controlled surveillance aircraft, such as those used in Afghanistan. It also calls for about a four percent increase in wages for military personnel.
Among the most controversial items, the bill provides $475 million for development of a new mobile cannon, called the Crusader which has a total price tag of $11 billion.
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced plans to cancel the program, saying money could be better spent on other technologies. The White House threatened to veto any legislation reaching it that prevents this cancellation.
The Senate version of the defense bill also contains about $475 million to develop the Crusader. However, the Senate Armed Services Committee has delayed a final decision on the Crusader until after a hearing next week.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld denied that a "show-down" was coming with Congress over the Crusader program.
The Senate version of the defense bill cuts about $1 billion from the amount requested by the Bush administration for its missile defense program.
Meanwhile, the House Appropriations committee unblocked $200 million in additional aid for Israel, part of a $29 billion supplemental spending package for defense and anti-terrorism.
At the same time, the committee approved $50 million in humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, that money would not go to the Palestinian authority, but through the U.S. Agency for International Development.