The House voted narrowly Thursday to protect a Republican plan to build more B-2 stealth bombers as it pushed through a $244 billion defense appropriations bill.
Also included in the measure was an amendment to ban abortions at military hospitals.
Final passage of the defense bill came on a 294-125 vote after a day of debate that ranged from social policy in the military health care system to investing billions in radar-evading warplanes.
In a 213-210 vote, supporters of the B-2, the world’s most expensive warplane, blocked an effort to cut $493 million for it from the defense appropriations bill even though the Pentagon said it doesn’t need more of the radar-evading bombers.
The money would enable the Air Force to begin buying more B-2s than the 20 already in service or on order. Because the Senate defense appropriations bill contains no money for more B-2s, the issue will have to be worked out in negotiations for a final version of the legislation.
Under the House bill, the Pentagon would get $7.8 billion more for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 than President Clinton requested, and $2.5 billion more than the government is spending on defense this year.
The measure reflects the Republican view that the administration has cut too deeply from national defense at a time when world instability appears to be on the rise.
“As the world’s only superpower, it is vital that America remains the world’s finest fighting force,” said Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairman of the House Appropriations national security subcommittee.
It also reflects the new conservative philosophy in Congress. The House voted 226-191 to add a provision by Rep. Bob Dornan, R-Calif., banning abortions at military hospitals except when the life of the mother is in jeopardy. Dornan said his proposal was designed to prevent using “taxpayer money in the shedding of innocent blood.”
But the vote also indicates bipartisan backing for increased defense spending; 85 Democrats joined 209 Republicans in supporting the bill.