WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives on Friday gave its final approval to a vast annual defense spending blueprint that includes a historic plan for letting gays serve openly in the military.
Lawmakers voted 229-186 to pass the legislation, a sweeping measure that lays out how to spend about 760 billion dollars that must be allocated in a separate appropriations bill.
The blueprint lays out a roadmap for the Pentagon to end restrictions that force gays to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face dismissal, contingent on a review due December 1 of its likely impact on current troops.
It would also require a formal certification from top commanders that lifting the ban, widely known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," will not harm the military's ability to fight, amid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The move set the stage for a fight in the Senate, where a key committee endorsed the repeal plan late Thursday even as opponents have vowed fierce resistance to lifting the restriction, codified in 1993.
The broader bill also includes a measure aimed at helping US aerospace giant Boeing secure a US Air Force aerial refuelling tanker bid over its European rival Airbus by requiring the Pentagon to factor in allegedly illegal subsidies when it chooses which firm should get the 35-billion-dollar contract.
The measure also funds a second engine for the F-35 fighter jet -- in defiance of a presidential veto threat, and over the Pentagon's objections that an alternative engine is "costly and unnecessary."
The bill authorizes 34 billion dollars in emergency spending for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to Haiti following a devastating earthquake in January.
The legislation also includes a measure aimed at barring transfers of suspected terrorist detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to facilities in the United States absent a presidential waiver.
It also forbids funds to build facilities to house such detainees, and bars transfers of detainees to third countries unless the Pentagon certifies that the host nation will prevent them from future terrorist activity.
The legislation would also include a provision, crafted by Republicans, that would require US President Barack Obama's administration to craft a military strategy for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
And it would forbid the Pentagon from contracting with any entity that does 20 million dollars or more of business in Iran's energy sector or in technology that could help Tehran develop weapons of mass destruction.
The legislation also includes 500 million dollars to help move US Marines from a base in Japan to the US territory of Guam, and 75 million to help Yemen battle Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group behind the failed Christmas airliner bomb plot over Detroit.
Once the Senate passes its version of the legislation, both versions must be merged into a compromise bill that could be sent to Obama for his signature.
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