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Defense Budget That Breaks Spending Agreement Passed By House

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WASHINGTON -- The House passed a defense budget Friday that exceeds the deal cut by Congress and President Barack Obama last summer, and that would have to be paid for with cash taken from poverty programs, health care and the federal workforce.

The National Defense Authorization Act permits $642 billion in defense spending next year. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, which passed 299 to 120, citing more than 30 changes to the budget the administration was seeking.

But the measure also adds $8 billion more than called for in the Budget Control Act that Congress agreed to last summer in exchange for raising the nation's debt limit.

"We increase the spending for defense due to the priorities that we feel are most important and the constitutional requirement we have to provide for the common defense," Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said. "But we will cut in other areas of the budget so that we comply fully with the deficit reduction act."

Those other areas were spelled out in the broader budget plan passed last week. Written by House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), it would cut more than $80 billion in federal retirement benefits, nearly $50 billion from Medicaid programs and more than $36 billion from programs to feed the poor.

The defense budget bill would also spend more for certain items than the Department of Defense wants to spend, and would ignore the department's priorities. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned the changes could endanger security.

Among other unasked for changes, the bill keeps aging aircraft and ships the military wants to phase out, keeps the Army and Marines at larger force levels and orders construction of missile defenses.

A Democratic bid to stand by the budget control numbers failed Friday. The Senate is likely to alter the bill.

Democrats complained that the GOP was only interested in funding expensive pet projects that the nation can't afford, and at the expense of citizens in need.

"This is an attack on our ability to provide the funding that America needs for a decent set of conditions here," Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said during the debate.

The bill also contained a controversial measure requiring all terrorist trials to be held at tribunals in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. An amendment that would have barred indefinite detention of terrorism suspects caught in America failed earlier Friday.

Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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