House approves 3.9 percent military raise for next year
September 25, 2008
WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday passed a 3.9 percent military pay raise next year and nearly $5 billion for bomb-resistant vehicles as part of their final draft of the 2009 Defense Authorization Bill.
The budget measure, which passed by a 392-39 vote, outlines $531.4 billion in funding for Defense Department programs next year and $68.6 billion more for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Senate still must OK the measure before the president can sign it into law.
House members were also expected Wednesday to vote on the 2009 Defense Appropriations Bill as part of a $630 billion omnibus spending bill designed to keep the federal government operating past the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
The authorization and appropriations legislation together set spending priorities and limits for all defense spending.
But the two do not overlap perfectly. The appropriations bill contains only $487.7 billion in funding for its Pentagon programs, and does not include money for ongoing combat operations overseas.
The plans contain a 3.9 percent pay raise, the highest increase for military personnel since 2004, and a $500 monthly bonus for stop-lossed troops starting next year. Lawmakers praised the pay boosts.
"[This bill] meets the first criteria of any effective spending bill: taking care of the troops," said Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "This is a great bill."
The authorization bill does not set pay raises for civilian Defense Department personnel, but lawmakers typically use the same figure.
Lawmakers approved $1.7 billion for new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, and another $3.2 billion for Army tactical wheeled vehicles, including up-armored Humvees.
The bills also set aside more than $10 billion to repair and replace Army and Marine Corps equipment being used in overseas operations, and another $750 million for equipment belonging to National Guard and Reserve units.
But lawmakers dropped a provision in the legislation to bar contractors in overseas combat zones from performing some sensitive jobs, like detainee interrogations, after the White House threatened a veto of the authorization bill.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., called the veto threat a "senseless move" and warned that contractor misbehavior has "damaged our already tattered image in the eyes of the Iraqi people."
"Inherently governmental functions should be performed by people in uniform," she said.
Along with the military funds, the omnibus bill sets spending for government agencies at 2008 levels until next March or until Congress returns from its election break to pass new 2009 budget bills.
The measure also lifts a 25-year-old ban on coastal drilling for oil, and contains more money for heating subsidy programs and disaster relief for states affected by recent hurricanes.
The Senate is expected to take up both bills later this week.