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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. House of Representatves passes $612 billion defense bill

By Ken Hanly     May 17, 2015 in Politics
Washington - In spite of President Barack Obama's threat of a veto, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a $612 billion military spending bill.
The baseline amount would be $523 billion and in addition there would be $90 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations(OCO), the new politically-correct moniker for the former global war on terror. The amount for OCO is even larger than Obama had requested. Critics claim that the OCO can be used as a huge slush fund by the Pentagon since the funds can be shifted around more easily than the cash in the general budget. The fund is used for pet projects for which no specific funds have been allocated.
There are considerable differences between the House bill and the Senate bill, particularly on the issue of Guantanamo Bay. The House bill would add further restrictions on release of detainees making it even more difficult for Obama to close the facility. The two bills will need to be reconciled before going to Obama who could still veto it. He complains that the House bill circumvents spending caps by adding $38 billion in extra funds to the OCO but he objects to the restrictions for release of Guantanamo detainees as well. Usually it is the Republicans who complain about Democratic over-spending habits but when it comes to military spending the situation appears to be reversed.
The vote for the bill was 269 in favor to 151 opposed. Eight Republicans voted against the bill and 41 Democrats voted for it in spite of the White House objections. The complete vote tally can be found here.
A controversial amendment to the House bill would completely end funding for the implementation of the 2010 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The treaty is designed to limit the number of nuclear warheads of the US and Russia. Russia has objected that the treaty does not deal with the US missile defense systems in Europe that Russia has consistently opposed.
The amendment was promoted by Doug Lamborn a Republican from Colorado who has long opposed the treaty. He cites Russian annexation of the Crimea as one of his grounds for withdrawing from the pact altogether. Lamborn opposed the treaty from the beginning on the grounds that only Russia and the US were involved and not other nuclear powers such as India, Pakistan, and China. He does not mention Israel. On his website, Lamborn says: But apart from missile defense, we completely agree with Putin: Russia and the U.S. should both withdraw from the New START treaty. It is a misguided Cold War relic that does not preserve peace. We stand ready to help Putin in his noble efforts to end this treaty.
The Cold War seems to have been reignited some time ago. Perhaps it is fitting that New START should be revived.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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