Washington: A US congressional panel
approved a defense bill on Thursday that would delay President
Barack Obama`s new policy allowing gays to serve openly in the
military and limit his authority on slashing the nation`s
nuclear arsenal and implement a US-Russia arms control treaty
overwhelmingly approved by the Senate last December.
By a vote of 60-1, the House Armed Services Committee
approved the broad, USD 553 billion defense blueprint that
would provide a 1.6 per cent increase in military pay, fund an
array of aircraft, ships and submarines, slightly increase
health care fees for working-age retirees and meet the
Pentagon`s request for an additional USD 118 billion to fight
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Emotions were raw over whether Pakistan was complicit
in protecting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden deep inside the
country, but the committee rejected an effort to cut $100
million from the USD 1.1 billion in US taxpayer dollars for
the reluctant ally in the terrorist fight.
The effort failed on a voice vote. A Republican Rep.
Howard "Buck" McKeon, the committee chairman, said the
U.S.-Pakistani relationship is tenuous and cutting funds could
further damage ties. "We have to use some constraint," McKeon
Days after US commandos killed bin Laden, Garamendi
introduced and then withdrew an amendment to accelerate the
withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. Under his measure,
the number of troops would be reduced by 90 per cent by the
end of 2013. He promised to take up the issue in the full
Obama is nearing a decision on the size and pace of US
troop withdrawals that he has promised will begin in July.
War-weary lawmakers are pushing for deeper and faster
reductions, citing both the killing of bin Laden and a US
military operation costing USD 10 billion a month.
The House will consider the bill the week of May 23,
with lawmakers certain to revive many of the budget and
political fights that marked the committee`s 16 hours of
sometimes rancorous debate.
The panel also voted to limit Obama`s authority to
reduce the nation`s nuclear arsenal and implement a US-Russia
arms control treaty overwhelmingly ratified by the Senate in
Over the objections of the Defense Department and
Democrats, the panel approved an amendment that would prohibit
money to take nuclear weapons out of operation unless the
administration provides a report to Congress on how it plans
to modernise the remaining weapons.