The House agreed Tuesday to wait until at least the third week in April to vote on a plan to close or scale back nearly 40 military bases nationwide, including Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City.
Approval of a motion by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wis., to vote no sooner than April 17 gives Congress one week before its deadline to act on the plan.Unless Congress rejects the plan in its entirety by April 24, the Pentagon automatically will begin the process of closing the bases next year.
A special government commission created by Congress last year to recommend a list of obsolete bases that could be shut down issued its report in December, and Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci approved the plan before he left office in January.
The plan, which the commission estimates would ultimately save $694 million a year, calls for closing 34 major military installations and 52 smaller ones, plus the partial shutdown of five major bases and the "realignment" of others.
Congress is not required to act on the plan for it to take effect, but has the opportunity to kill the plan by passing a resolution disapproving it.
Such resolutions have been introduced in the both chambers, and under the law that created the commission, any member may call the measure to the floor for a vote with just 24 hours' notice.
Aspin's motion for a vote delay, approved without objection on the House floor Tuesday, was aimed at accommodating lawmakers who wanted more time to review the commission's work and the methods it used to reach its conclusions, an aide to his committee said.
Aspin's committee voted overwhelmingly last week to support the plan. No action is anticipated in the Senate unless the plan suffers an unlikely defeat in the House.
Nevertheless, the plan has elicited enough opposition from lawmakers whose states would be affected by the closures that a vote on the House floor is nearly certain.