News In Brief

$291 billion defense bill goes to conference panel

A $291 billion spending plan for the Pentagon - 6.9 percent higher after inflation than its current budget - cleared the Senate before dawn Thursday and immediately headed toward a conference committee for compromising with House-passed legislation. (The House passed its $284 billion version of the defense authorization bill three weeks ago.)

The Senate approved the bill 82 to 6. In a key vote earlier, the Senate voted 55 to 41 against a move to pull out 90,000 American troops from Europe by the end of the decade if the 15 other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization do not increase their contributions to the alliance's non-nuclear military force. Sen. Sam Nunn (D) of Georgia was the chief advocate of the withdrawal.

The senators then voted 94 to 3 to limit US troop strength in Europe at the current 326,414, blocking planned Pentagon increases.

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