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Long IslandPolitics

House increases military budget

WASHINGTON -- Money for the Pentagon and the nation's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is proving largely immune from the budget-cutting that's slamming other government agencies in the rush to bring down the deficit.

On a 336-87 vote Friday, the Republican-controlled House backed a $649-billion military spending bill that boosts the Defense Department budget by $17 billion. The bipartisan embrace of the measure came as White House and congressional negotiators face an Aug. 2 deadline on agreeing to trillions of dollars in federal spending cuts and raising the borrowing limit so the United States does not default on debt payments.

While House Republican leaders agreed to slash billions from the proposed budgets for other agencies, the military budget is the only one that would see a double-digit increase beginning Oct. 1.

"In the midst of a serious discussion about our nation's debt crisis, House Republicans demonstrated responsible leadership that sets priorities and does not jeopardize our national security interests and our nation's ongoing military efforts," said Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.

But Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) scoffed at the suggestion that "everything is on the table" in budget negotiations between the Obama administration and congressional leaders.

"The military budget is not on the table," he said. "The military is at the table, and it is eating everybody else's lunch."

The bill would provide $530 billion to the Pentagon and $119 billion to cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would provide a 1.6 percent increase in pay and buy various warships, aircraft and weapons.

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