House panel approves $491B defense bill

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a $491 billion spending plan for the Defense Department.

The measure, which passed by voice vote, could reach the House floor as soon as next week.

ADVERTISEMENT
The bill includes language that would prevent the Defense Department from using any funds to transfer prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Lawmakers in both parties have been angered over the release of five prisoners at the camp in exchange for U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the last U.S. prisoner of war in Afghanistan.

The base funding recommendation is $200 million above President Obama’s request and $4.1 billion above last year’s enacted level, according to chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). The spending bill also includes a more than $79 billion placeholder for Overseas Contingency Operations, which pays for operations in Afghanistan.

The administration has yet to determine how much it will ask for the account in the wake of the president’s recently announced plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from that country by the end of 2016.

Moments before passage the committee adopted by voice vote an amendment by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) that would cut off funding for arms deals with Russian corporation Rosoboronexport until Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel can certify the company has stopped transferring weapons into Syria.

The Pentagon must also confirm that Russia has withdrawn its troops from Crimea and pulled forces from the country's border with Ukraine, according to text of the bill.