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Senate Votes to Give Pentagon 75% of Funding Request for Emergencies : Military: Measure approving $1.9 billion also calls for slashing an equal amount in programs that are non-military. Worries over readiness are cited.

March 17, 1995|ART PINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Thursday to give the Pentagon only about three-quarters of the $2.6 billion that it is seeking to help pay for peacekeeping and other unexpected military operations and insisted on cutting other Pentagon programs to make up the additional funds.

By a vote of 97 to 3, the chamber approved a supplemental appropriations bill that would provide $1.9 billion for training, operations and equipment maintenance, but would slash an equal amount in so-called non-military Pentagon programs, such as environmental cleanup.

The Defense Department had sought the extra appropriation as "emergency" funding, contending that, if the bill were not approved by late March, the services would have to cancel training exercises and stop buying spare parts, quickly crimping military readiness.

Pentagon officials Thursday criticized the Senate bill as inadequate, noting that it would provide $700 million less than requested for military operations and would force the services to take all $1.9 billion out of other defense programs--a departure from previous practice.

They also objected to provisions that would slash funds for several key Pentagon programs that the Administration regards as important--aid to Russia, subsidies for technology development and environmental cleanup around closed military bases.

Besides the cuts in existing defense programs, the Senate measure also would rescind some $1.5 billion in fiscal 1995 monies for more than a dozen domestic spending programs, ranging from public housing construction to school repair and Labor Department job-training programs.

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The House approved legislation in late February that would provide $3.2 billion to cover the cost of such military contingency operations but voted to cut other Pentagon programs by only $1.5 billion. The House bill would cut $1.4 billion in domestic spending programs.

Both bills reflect changed congressional procedures in the face of mounting budget pressures. Traditionally, lawmakers have granted such supplemental appropriations requests simply by adding to the Pentagon's existing spending authority.

But with deficit-fever now rampant on Capitol Hill, both chambers voted to "pay for" the added spending authority by cutting existing programs. The difference between the two is in how much extra authority is provided and in which programs are cut to help finance it.

The Administration is expected to try to alter the legislation next week when the measure goes to a joint House-Senate conference committee, which is scheduled to hammer out a compromise version of the bill.

Senate passage on Thursday came after a week of political wrangling during which senators sought to load the defense money bill with a spate of unrelated amendments, from tightening the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba to financing a wind tunnel to be located in Arkansas.

Virtually all were voted down.

The Senate did approve a non-binding resolution by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that calls on the services to stop providing full pay and allowances to members of the armed forces who have been convicted by court-martial and sentenced to prison.

It also approved a proposal by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to rescind $18 billion from this year's Pentagon budget that would have financed construction projects at military bases that have been recommended for closure.

Times staff writer Richard A. Serrano contributed to this story.

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