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House Approves Compromise Defense Policy Bill, Sending it to Senate

Congress's lower chamber on Thursday approved a House-Senate compromise bill that would set Pentagon spending policy for fiscal 2014.

The annual defense authorization bill features a number of measures related to strategic-arms planning and weapons, including a restriction on when work can begin on converting nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to just a conventional mission; a directive that a study be conducted of alternatives to an expensive plan for modernizing two nuclear warheads; and an order to deploy a new radar to monitor missile threats from North Korea.

The legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 350-69, now awaits consideration in the Senate, which senior Senate Armed Services Committee members anticipate will happen next week, Defense News reported.

Prospects for passage in the Senate are unclear as a number of Republicans have objected to the plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to not allow votes on amendments to the $607 billion legislation. Supporters of fast-tracking the bill argue it is necessary to ensure that troop-compensation benefits do not expire at the end of the year.

Still, some GOP senators have demanded votes on amendments that cover such high-profile issues as more sanctions on Iran.

The House bill passed on Thursday did not include amendments, so the Senate must approve an identical version for the whole thing to be tied up before the year is over.

Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters he could not predict whether the Pentagon policy bill will be quickly approved next week.

"I don't know," said Levin, who leads his chamber's Armed Services Committee. "It depends on all the other pieces on the chess board."

The House on Thursday also approved by a vote of 333-94  a compromise budget resolution that would reduce by roughly 50 percent sequester cuts on defense spending for fiscal 2014 and 2015, Defense News separately reported.

The Pentagon stands to get back approximately $22.5 billion next year in sequestration relief if the bicameral budget deal is passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama. The department in 2015 would get $9 billion in relief.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in provided remarks said "this agreement doesn't solve every budget problem facing the department," though "it will help address our military readiness challenge by restoring funding for training and procurement -- especially in fiscal year 2014."

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