U.S. House Approves 2009 Defense Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a defense spending bill of $602 billion for 2009, despite a warning by the White House that the bill could be vetoed by the president if it contained any amendments, RIA-Novosti reported Friday.

Lawmakers voted 384-23 for the bill, but introduced a number of amendments, including a 52% cut in funding for the controversial missile defense shield, planned for deployment in Central Europe.

However the White House earlier cautioned in a statement: "If the final bill presented to the president contains any of the following provisions, the president's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill."

The proposed missile defense shield will see the deployment of 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in neighboring Czech Republic. Russia is opposed to the plans saying the shield would threaten Russia's national security.

The House said the Pentagon would not be able to start any construction work on the missile shield until agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic had been ratified.

Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairwoman Ellen Tauscher also said that the missile shield would not receive any funding without the proposed system undergoing thorough testing.

Congress reduced funding for the project by 52% approving a sum of $370.8 million. The Bush administration had originally requested $712 million in funding for the European component of the missile shield in 2009.

The Czech government approved the deployment of the missile defense system on its territory on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Poland is still negotiating terms and conditions with the United States. Warsaw wants the U.S. to assist in modernizing its Armed Forces in exchange for the deployment of the 10 missile interceptors.

The U.S. Senate is due to consider the proposed defense bill in June.

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