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WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a $518.1 billion Pentagon spending bill for the current fiscal year that was included in a massive spending measure to keep the federal government open until Sept. 30.
The chamber, racing to get out of town as a snowstorm hit the capital region, approved by a 267-151 vote a House Appropriations Committee-crafted $982 billion continuing resolution that would keep the federal government running beyond March 27, when the current continuing resolution expires.
The new plan includes a full 2013 Pentagon appropriations bill that totals $2 billion more than the Obama administration requested.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said the full defense spending bill would allow "the Pentagon to do its best with what it has." To stay under sequestration spending caps, it finds savings by removing proposed spending on spare parts and for the Iraq conflict, Rogers said Wednesday.
Pro-defense lawmakers from both parties have said that the panel and GOP leaders agreed to attach a full Pentagon bill because the military needs the flexibility that a full-year appropriations bill would provide. Under a continuing resolution, heads of federal agencies are severely limited in shifting funds among their budget accounts, meaning they cannot move funds that might no longer be needed from one program to a higher-priority program that needs a cash infusion.
Hawkish lawmakers and appropriations committee leaders said the across-the-board sequestration cuts, which last Friday triggered a $500 billion, decade-spanning reduction to planned defense spending, made a full 2013 DoD spending bill necessary. In addition to flexibility, the appropriations committee added funds to military accounts that will be hit hardest by sequestration, such as operations and maintenance.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is readying its version of the bill, and is expected to vote on it next week.
The White House on Tuesday signaled President Obama would not veto the House bill if that plan — or something very close to it — eventually reaches his desk. Last Friday, Obama said he would pass any continuing resolution that reflects previous fiscal legislation.