WASHINGTON – The Senate agreed Friday to restore $1.3 billion to the budget for missile defense, providing President Bush his full $8.3 billion request while giving him the option of using the money instead for anti-terrorism efforts.
The amendment to the $343 billion defense authorization bill for the year beginning Oct. 1 was approved by voice vote as debate on the overall bill began. It would put back money that Democrats on the Armed Services Committee had diverted to other defense purposes.
Both committee chairman Carl Levin and the panel's top Republican, John Warner of Virginia, urged support of the bill in light of last week's terrorist attacks.
"Our fury at those who attack innocents is matched by our determination to protect our citizens from more terror and by our resolve to track down, root out and relentlessly pursue the terrorists and those who would shelter or harbor them," said Levin, D-Mich.
Warner said, "This bill will communicate a message to our citizens and to the world that the United States resolves to do whatever is necessary to protect our homeland, our forces abroad, and to work with our allies in their mutual protection and to address the whole spectrum of threats that confronts our nation" and other nations around the world.
Bush had sought to boost this year's missile defense spending by $3 billion, for a total of $8.3 billion.
Levin and Warner cosponsored Friday's amendment in a bipartisan effort combining Warner's wish to fully fund missile defense and Levin's wish, if the money was going back in, to allow it to be used for anti-terrorism, Levin told reporters.
Panel Democrats had pushed the bill to the floor two weeks ago on a party-line vote, 13-12.
That rare division stemmed from Republican anger over a Democratic missile defense provision that the GOP believed would tie the president's hands in talks with Russia. The provision sought to require a vote of Congress before any money could be spent on missile defense activities that the president said would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.
To help speed through the spending bill, Levin dropped that from the measure Wednesday and offered it as a separate bill that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., can bring to the floor later.
Other issues such as base closings may still pose stumbling blocks, Levin conceded. The panel approved one round of closings, 17-8. The House Armed Services Committee, by contrast, sought to derail base closings by omitting any mention of them.
Levin said the $1.3 billion amendment would actually boost the bill's total above the allowed limit of $343 billion, but he expected offsetting cuts would be made during the House-Senate conference that will resolve differences between the measures the two chambers approve.
The House began debate on its bill Thursday, but no final vote was expected until next week.
Levin and Warner anticipated the bill that emerges from the negotiating conference will include supplemental money the administration will seek after it determines its needs to fight the war against terrorism.
Separately, the House voted 401-0 to authorize $10.5 billion for military construction.