The Senate has approved more than $43 million to help Hill Air Force Base prepare to receive work from closing sister bases.

That may show the end is finally near in part of a long battle between President Clinton and the Republican Congress over whether two air bases - McClellan in California and Kelly in Texas - will shut down as ordered by a closure commission.Clinton vowed to the vote-rich states during his 1996 campaign that he would keep jobs at the two bases in place by turning them to contractors there.

Republicans said that was illegal and passed legislation to block it. Still, a Defense Department memo was recently discovered, saying the White House wanted the department to help contractors keep jobs at McClellan in some open bidding against Hill.

"As we look toward the future of Hill Air Force Base, we must make sure it is prepared to receive the workload coming from Kelly and McClellan," said Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, the only Utah member of Congress on an appropriations committee.

He helped attach the money for Hill to a military construction spending bill.

He said it includes $2.1 million to construct a gas turbine engine test facility to move such work from Kelly.

Also, it includes $5.3 million to remodel facilities at Hill to accommodate product management and composites work now performed at McClellan. An additional $1.1 million will provide a new building to house some radar operations and training from the California base.

The bill also appropriates $31 million for construction of facilities to accommodate mobile hospital units from Defense Distribution Depot Ogden.

The bill also included $1.5 million to expand a Child Development Center at Hill, and $2.6 million to construct a War Readiness Asset Warehouse.

Also in the bill was $3.9 million for construction at Tooele Army Depot of an Ammunition Containerization Complex.