Friday, December 24, 2010

US House passes $725bn defense bill

US House passes $725bn defense bill

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Critics, including gay rights groups, argue that the policy violates the rights of gay military members to free speech and open association.
The US House of Representatives
The US House of Representatives has passed a massive $725 billion defense bill, including around $160 billion in funding for the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The legislation, passed by 341 votes to 48 on Friday, authorizes the Defense Department to spend nearly $160 billion on overseas combat missions in fiscal year 2011 without major restrictions on the conduct of operations, the Associated Press reported.

The figure is higher than the $128 billion budget for fiscal year 2010.

The official cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has now surpassed $1.1 trillion.

Some estimates say that between 40 and 50 percent of the US federal budget goes to military spending, which is a far higher proportion that any other government in the world spends.

The legislation will continue to restrict the transfer of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp to the United States.

This is a major setback for President Barack Obama's efforts to close the controversial prison.

Before taking office, Obama had promised to close down Guantanamo.

The legislation will now have to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama before becoming law.

Earlier on Wednesday, the House voted to repeal the "Don't ask, don't tell” Clinton era policy, which bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

The decision will give another chance to Senate proponents of the repeal before the Congress breaks for the holidays. The Senate blocked the repeal last week.

The "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, introduced in 1993, prohibits homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

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