Defense bill includes funding for Cannon

Staff and wire reports

WASHINGTON — Troops would get a pay raise in a defense bill that Congress sent President Bush on Saturday. Even before passage, lawmakers had backed away from an election-season showdown with the administration over Iraq.

Legislation approved by a voice vote in the Senate would increase pay by 3.9 percent, extend bonuses and provide money for family housing, tuition assistance and other programs.

The bill, which maps $612 billion in defense spending next year, shows how lawmakers would rather go home and campaign than wage a prolonged battle in Washington with Bush over Iraq policy.

More than $26 million was approved for construction at Cannon, including $8.3 million for a CV-22 Simulator Facility and $18.1 million for a maintenance hangar requested by the Bush administration.

“The flight simulator facility is just one of the new projects Cannon will need as it is retrofitted to host the Special Operations Command,” said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on Defense. “I’m pleased that we have money for this investment in the base and in the men and women who will train there.”

A $3.2 million appropriation will allow the New Mexico National Guard to continue its counter-drug programs.

In the end, House-Senate bargainers dropped several provisions he opposed. Eliminated was language barring private interrogators from U.S. military detention facilities and giving Congress a chance to block a security pact with Iraq.

The legislation also lacks a call for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq — something Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama long has called for and Republican nominee John McCain has opposed.

The bill envisions nearly $70 billion for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and requires more information on contractors with projects in Iraq. It also paves the way for Bush’s plan to build an anti-missile system in Eastern Europe, a proposal strongly opposed by Russia.

The House approved the bill overwhelmingly on Wednesday. Bush is expected to sign the measure.

The measure is S. 3001 as amended.