Senate passes 2007 Defense appropriations bill

The Senate yesterday unanimously passed an amended version of H.R. 5631, the 2007 Defense Appropriations bill, which now will go to conference committee for reconciliation with the House version of the legislation.

The House passed their version in June.

The Senate version of the legislation includes $3.5 billion for the Future Combat System, $243 million less than the administration's request. It also delays production of the Joint Strike Fighter for a year, to allow for additional testing and design maturity, while adding $340 million to continue developing a second source for the JSF's engines.

The legislation also provides a 2.2 percent pay increase across the board, as requested in the president's budget.

The two chambers' bills vary in many particulars, but both are several billion dollars less than the administration's request of $381.7 billion. For instance, the House cut spending on the Air Force's Space Radar program by $66.4 million, while the Senate bill reduced the same program by $100 million.

The House had included $5.6 billion for replacement of equipment lost or degraded in Iraq and Afghanistan; the Senate passed a floor amendment adding $13.1 billion for those expenses.

The bill now goes to conference committee to iron out the differences, to try to get a compromise that can be voted on by Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. The Senate named their 19 conferees, including Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), vice chairman of the committee.

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