US House passes $584 bn defense bill, Senate vote due

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WASHINGTON D.C.: The House of Representatives adopted an annual US defense spending bill on Thursday (Friday in Manila) which includes emergency funding for military operations against Islamic jihadists in Iraq and Syria, as requested by President Barack Obama.

The Senate still must pass the legislation — outlining $584.2 billion in federal military spending for fiscal year 2015, which began on October 1 – before Congress adjourns at the end of next week.

The Republican-led House passed the measure by a vote of 300 to 119.

The bill, a culmination of months of negotiations, extends training and equipping for moderate Syrian rebels, a program that had been authorized to last only until December 11, using existing Pentagon money.


It also includes Obama’s $5-billion request for funds to battle the Islamic State extremist group, including $3.4 billion for deployment of US forces as part of operation “Inherent Resolve,” and $1.6 billion for a program to equip and train Iraqi Kurdish forces for two years.

Obama’s request for $520 million for the State Department’s humanitarian and diplomatic efforts was also included.

“The security threats our nation faces are as grave as they are prolific, and it is imperative that we provide our military men and women the tools they need to keep America safe,” House Speaker John Boehner said after the bill’s passage.

In another area, the law extends restrictions on closing the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A ban on transferring detainees to the United States, in force since 2011, was renewed despite opposition from Obama.

Republicans fear the detainees might be freed by a judge and thus constitute a threat to national security.

Thirteen prisoners have been sent to other countries this year, and 142 men remain in the prison.

The overall defense authorization includes $63.7 billion for overseas operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Defense spending accounts for just over half of the US government’s budget for so-called discretionary spending, which excludes social welfare.

AFP

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