House to Pass Defense Bill That Includes Troop Pay Raise

The House plans to pass as early as Wednesday a new defense policy bill that includes a pay raise for troops.

President Bush had rejected an earlier version of the legislation because he said it would expose the Iraqi government to expensive lawsuits.

Democrats on Tuesday planned to send the bill back to the House Armed Services Committee, which then would quickly redraft the measure to address Bush's concerns and send it back to the floor for a final vote by week's end.

The decision to revise the bill without attempting to block Bush's action reflects the difficulty that Democrats have had in challenging the president on even minor issues. Democrats lack the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.

The new bill is expected to increase troop pay by 3.5 percent, retroactive to Jan. 1. Overall, the bill authorizes about $696 billion in defense spending, including $189 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to setting pay raises for service members, the bill's primary purpose is to guide Pentagon policy, including setting restrictions on the Pentagon's multibillion-dollar acquisition program.

Amended will be a provision by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., that would have guaranteed that U.S. victims of state-sponsored abuse have the right to sue those governments in court. The legislation was embraced by Republicans. By mid-December, the bill passed by overwhelming margins in both chambers.

A couple of weeks later, after Iraqi officials objected, Bush announced his opposition. He said the bill would subject the Iraqi government, struggling to rebuild itself, to expensive lawsuits seeking damages from the Saddam Hussein era.

Lautenberg countered that Bush "should be listening to the pleas of Americans victims of terror and their families and should help give them the justice they deserve."