The House on Wednesday easily approved a $268.2-billion defense budget over White House objections to new B-2 Stealth bombers and to a June 1998 date to pull U.S. ground troops out of Bosnia.
Administration officials, including top military officers, have said they will recommend that President Clinton veto the defense bill if it reaches his desk with those provisions. The pending Senate version is more acceptable, however, and a deal could be struck before a confrontation on the issues.
The defense bill passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 304-210. It calls for restarting production of radar-evading B-2 Stealth bombers despite protests by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen that the purchase of nine additional planes is expensive and unnecessary. The B-2 production start-up may not survive the legislative process, however, as the Senate version expressly bars the purchase of more B-2 aircraft.
Cohen said the Pentagon was unanimous in its view that “the cost of further B-2 production cannot be justified.” But supporters argued that the funds would help maintain the productive capacity of the defense industry and provide necessary fighting capability.
The House and Senate defense bills would spend $6.6 billion more than Clinton requested and are $3 billion larger than the 1997 budget. The Senate will vote next month.
The bill also provides $285 million to destroy Russia’s Cold War-era nuclear weapons.