Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Pubdate: 22 May 1998
Author: Tom Raum, Associated Press

Politics: Opponents in the $270 billion defense bill, is a waste of scarce

Washington-The House passed a $270 billion defence bill Thursday that
includes authorizing the military to help patrol U.S. borders in the war
against drug smuggling and illegal immigration.

Opponents said the plan - an amendment approved 288-to-132 - could turn the
U.S. Mexican border into an armed corridor.

The overall bill, covering military programs and spending for the fiscal
year that begins Oct. 1, was then passed on a 357-60 vote. The Senate is
expected to vote on its aversion next month.

The total price tag on the legislation is roughly the same as this year's
Pentagon spending, and many members complained the lack of growth in the
budget was hurting military readiness.

The legislation includes $1.9 billion to keep U.S. forces in Bosnia and a
3.6 percent pay raise for the military - half a percentage point more than
the Clinton administration had requested.

The overall bill is also notable for one thing it doesn't include: another
round of base closings sought by the Clinton administration.

In an emotional debate, lawmakers sparred over whether the Pentagon could -
or should - be called upon to deploy forces for "monitoring and patrolling"
the U.S. Mexican border.

Rep. James Traficant, R-Ohio, sponsor of the amendment, told the House the
legislation only authorizes such a deployment - and doesn't require it.

First, the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the Customs Service
would have to request the help - and the defense secretary would have to
approve it.

The Defense Department opposes the measure.

"Maybe the Pentagon doesn't want it," said Traficant. "The American people
not only want it, they need it."

But opponents said that border patrolling was not a legitimate function of
an already resource strapped Defense Department.

"We shouldn't put thousands of Army soldiers on the border of Texas," said
Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas. He said it would "make the Texas-Mexican border
look like East Berlin after World War 11."

But Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., said, "It is time this country did
something about drugs. Put the 82nd Airborne on maneuvers down there if you
want to stop drugs."

The annual defense bill authorizes $270.4 billion for fiscal 1999, roughly
the same amount as last year.

The bill provides $3.8 billion for ballistic missile defense and $417
million to assist in removing military and nuclear threats from the former
Soviet Union.

House members rejected, by a 251 to 167 vote, an attempt by Reps. Barney
Frank, D-Mass., and Tom Campbell, R-Standord, to force to the floor an
amendment that would require the 8,500 U.S. troops now in Bosnia to be
brought home by year's end. 

- ---
Checked-by: Mike Gogulski