Washington: A US congressional panel approved a defense bill on Thursday that would delay President Barack Obama’s new policy allowing gays to serve openly in the military and limit his authority on slashing the nation’s nuclear arsenal and implement a US-Russia arms control treaty overwhelmingly approved by the Senate last December.
By a vote of 60-1, the House Armed Services Committee approved the broad, USD 553 billion defense blueprint that would provide a 1.6 per cent increase in military pay, fund an array of aircraft, ships and submarines, slightly increase health care fees for working-age retirees and meet the Pentagon’s request for an additional USD 118 billion to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Emotions were raw over whether Pakistan was complicit in protecting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden deep inside the country, but the committee rejected an effort to cut $100 million from the USD 1.1 billion in US taxpayer dollars for the reluctant ally in the terrorist fight.
The effort failed on a voice vote. A Republican Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, the committee chairman, said the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is tenuous and cutting funds could further damage ties. “We have to use some constraint,” McKeon said.
Days after US commandos killed bin Laden, Garamendi introduced and then withdrew an amendment to accelerate the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. Under his measure, the number of troops would be reduced by 90 per cent by the end of 2013. He promised to take up the issue in the full House.
Obama is nearing a decision on the size and pace of US troop withdrawals that he has promised will begin in July.
War-weary lawmakers are pushing for deeper and faster reductions, citing both the killing of bin Laden and a US military operation costing USD 10 billion a month.
The House will consider the bill the week of May 23, with lawmakers certain to revive many of the budget and political fights that marked the committee’s 16 hours of sometimes rancorous debate.
The panel also voted to limit Obama’s authority to reduce the nation’s nuclear arsenal and implement a US-Russia arms control treaty overwhelmingly ratified by the Senate in December. Over the objections of the Defense Department and Democrats, the panel approved an amendment that would prohibit money to take nuclear weapons out of operation unless the administration provides a report to Congress on how it plans to modernise the remaining weapons. ZeeNews