The Democratic-run House is nearing passage of a $291 billion military budget after rejecting a Republican effort to replace it with President Bush's defense proposals.
Despite a veto threat Bush issued this week, the House was expected to approve the competing package Wednesday for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.Among the remaining issues were whether to:
-Allow some 65,000 military women and 400,000 dependents overseas access to abortions in military hospitals if they are willing to pay the costs. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Les AuCoin, D-Ore., failed in a House vote on the defense bill last year.
AuCoin said his measure "only allows military families stationed abroad the same access to safe and legal abortions as their stateside counterparts."
But Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., an opponent of abortion, urged his colleagues to reject AuCoin's amendment. "Let's keep Defense Department hospitals havens of life," Smith said.
-Require drug tests as a condition of new employment in the Defense Department.
-Kill both the Midgetman and MX nuclear missiles.
The House, by a largely party-line vote of 287-127 Tuesday, rejected the Bush budget that called for $5.2 billion for SDI and theater missile defenses, four new B-2 bombers and a significant reduction in the National Guard and Reserves.
In other action Tuesday, the House approved a series of measures requiring U.S. allies to assume more of the cost of their own defense.
It adopted a non-binding resolution calling on Bush to reduce U.S. troops in Europe from about 300,000 to fewer than 100,000 by fiscal 1995 and a measure instructing the president to negotiate with each nation in which the United States has troops on defense cost-sharing.
Lawmakers also called for a cap on the number of foreign government civilian employees at U.S. bases overseas who are indirectly paid by the United States.
"It is outrageous that we are still paying for the defense of countries that have the strongest economies in the world," said Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich.
In several hours of floor debate, scores of lawmakers criticized Japan, South Korea and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies for relying on the United States for their defense but paying a disproportionate share of the burden.
But Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., argued that it is in the United States' best interest to station its forces overseas and said Japan and the NATO allies pay about 70 percent of the costs for American troops there.