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Military-PayRaise 1stLd-Writethru 05-15 Web

Troop pay raise advances

The House Armed Services Committee approved a bill early today that authorizes $601.4 billion in defense spending for next year, including a 3.9 percent pay raise for troops.

The pay increase and other service benefits included in the bill — such as a prohibition on increased health care fees — is more than President Bush wants. But it is in synch with a broader election-year effort by lawmakers to boost benefits for service members and veterans.

The legislation also would restrict U.S. reconstruction spending in Iraq unless Baghdad spends more of its own money, although the bill would allow Bush to waive the requirement.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has proposed a similar defense bill that includes the 3.9 percent pay increase — all but guaranteeing the pay provision will be included in the final bill and sent to Bush for his signature this summer. The Senate panel also voted to restrict reconstruction dollars, but did not include a waiver.

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The legislation covers the 2009 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.

The proposed pay increase would be almost a half percent more than Bush requested.

Last year, Congress approved a 3.5 percent raise for troops, which took effect in January. The White House opposed the increase because it said it would cost more than $2 billion if maintained for five years. But Bush nevertheless signed the bill into law in January.

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