The House dealt a blow to the Clinton administration's defense program Tuesday by approving more money to keep the B-2 bomber program alive and by blocking aid to help former Soviet states dismantle their nuclear arsenals until Russia halts its offensive biological weapons program.
Tuesday's votes were cast at the opening of three days of planned debate on the 1996 defense authorization bill. The House bill calls for a $267.3 billion military budget, $9.7 billion more than the Pentagon budget requested by the White House.
In a 219-203 tally to reject an amendment on the B-2, the House voted to keep $553 million in the fiscal 1996 defense authorization act to sustain the bomber production line and allow for procurement beyond the 20 planes that the administration had sought.
Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, chairman of the Budget Committee, broke with his party leadership to join with Rep. Ronald Dellums, D-Calif., to sponsor the amendment to strike the $553 million of spending. Kasich got some support in the House from his own party, including among freshman Republicans. But a majority of GOP representatives was joined by more than 70 Democrats, especially from B-2 production states such as California and New York, to support production of the additional planes.
Advocates said the B-2 remains the most cost-effective means of projecting force, and they warned against the risk of closing the production lines. Opponents argued that building more B-2s, a plane conceived during the Cold War, would be too costly and unnecessary. They said the same mission could be performed by buying less expensive, precision-guided munitions.
By 244-180 in favor of an amendment by Rep. Robert K. Dornan, R-Calif., the House voted to hold up all spending under a program to finance dismantling and destruction of nuclear weapons by Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. …