House passes defense spending, but loads bill with social issues Clinton veto is certain if measure is not altered

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- Setting up an election-year confrontation with President Clinton, the House yesterday passed a $267 billion defense authorization bill loaded with such hot-button provisions as a revival of the ban on homosexuals in the military, a requirement to discharge HIV-infected service personnel and a prohibition on the sale of "sexually explicit" magazines at base stores.

The White House said that Clinton would veto the bill unless it is toned down in the Senate.


The bill, approved by a 272-153 vote that largely followed party lines, adds $13 billion to Clinton's budget request for the Defense Department, most of it for additional aircraft, ships, submarines, tanks and precision-guided munitions that the Pentagon says are not needed, at least not now.

The Senate version of the bill, approved earlier this month by the Armed Services Committee, also authorizes $267 billion in spending, but it either rejects or ignores most of the controversial social issues contained in the House measure.


With both the House and Senate measures authorizing $13 billion increases in the Pentagon budget, the legislation draws a vivid line between the defense policies of the White House and the Republican-led Congress.

Republicans, joined by about one-third of the Democrats in the House, rejected Clinton's plan to reduce total defense spending by about $10 billion during the fiscal year that starts next Oct. 1. They argued that the administration was trying to cut too deeply into the country's post-Cold War military capacity.

Although the House bill is about $3 billion higher than the current year's budget, it amounts to a 1.5 percent reduction when the numbers are adjusted to discount the effects of inflation.

In its report on the bill, the House International Relations Committee warned that the nation faces threats from China and an increasingly unstable Russia as well as rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea. The committee said the United States must be prepared to cope with ethnic violence in places such as Bosnia and Somalia.

But the House clouded the fiscal debate between the White House and Capitol Hill by approving a string of social provisions, many of them sponsored by Rep. Robert K. Dornan, a California Republican, that give Clinton ample reasons to veto the legislation without having to address the spending priorities.

The bill reverses Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy of allowing homosexuals to serve in uniform provided they keep quiet about their sexual orientation, by reinstating a flat ban on gay troops.

It would require the services to discharge personnel infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS. And it prohibits post exchanges and other on-base stores from selling Playboy, Penthouse and other publications containing "sexually explicit material."

The measure also renews a provision, contained in previous defense authorization bills, prohibiting overseas military hospitals from performing abortions except in cases of rape or incest or when the mother's life is at stake.


Once the Senate approves its version of the bill, differences will be resolved in a House-Senate conference committee.

Pub Date: 5/16/96