WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday overwhelmingly backed a $601 billion defense authorization bill that spares planes, ships and military bases in an election-year nod to hometown interests.

Ignoring a White House veto threat, Republicans and Democrats united behind the popular measure that authorizes spending on weapons and personnel for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The vote was 325-98 for the legislation which now must be reconciled with a work-in-progress Senate version.

Maine’s delegation was split, with Rep. Michael Michaud voting yes and Rep. Chellie Pingree opposed.

The Pentagon proposed retiring decades-old aircraft programs, including the A-10 Warthog, a close air support plane, and the U-2 spy plane of the Cold War era. It also sought congressional approval to close military bases deemed unessential and slightly raise out-of-pocket costs for housing and health care.

Not this year, said Republicans and Democrats alike. They left popular personnel benefits untouched despite warnings that the skyrocketing costs of Pentagon entitlement programs come at the expense of modernizing and training the military.

“It is not our job to accept the department’s budget as is, but if we are to reject the Pentagon’s cost-saving measures we need to offer alternatives. We didn’t,” said Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on Armed Services.


Navy cruisers, an aircraft carrier and AWACS aircraft, the airborne warning and control system, were saved.

Lawmakers pressed to sunset the authorization given to the president to use military force, to end the indefinite detention of terror suspects captured on U.S. soil and to close the naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The bill imposes limits on President Barack Obama’s handling of terror suspects at Guantanamo, barring him from transferring them to U.S. prisons.

The White House late Wednesday said Obama would veto the bill if it “continues unwarranted restrictions regarding Guantanamo detainees.” Hours later, the House rejected a measure to close Guantanamo.

The House Rules Committee rejected amendments that would have offered citizenship to young immigrants brought here illegally who serve in the military. The panel also rejected legislation that would have opened military academies to such immigrants.

To address the problem of sexual assault, the bill would change the military rules of evidence to prohibit the accused from using good military character as defense unless it was directly relevant to the case.

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