Clinton to Congress: Pay raise too high

The Office of Management and Budget Thursday released a statement of administration policy opposing the House version of the Defense authorization bill, saying the measure increases military pay and retirement benefits by too much.

The $289 billion Defense authorization bill (H.R. 1401) under consideration in the House includes a 4.8 percent military pay raise for 2000. The House has already endorsed the idea of providing equal raises for military and civilian federal employees next year.

"While the administration is pleased that HR 1401 endorses the key elements of the President's plan to improve military compensation, we are concerned about the excessive costs of the ... bill," said the OMB statement. "The administration is concerned that the bill's military pay increases exceed the Defense program for fiscal 2000-2005 by $1.4 billion and that its retirement reform would be significantly more costly in the long run than the administration proposal."

President Clinton proposed a 4.4 percent pay increase in his fiscal 2000 budget.

House leaders accused the White House and House Democrats of reversing their ground on the Defense bill just as it was to be taken up on the House floor.

"We've just been informed that the top Democratic leadership is in fact going to turn its back on the White House's request to provide support for our troops," House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., charged Thursday afternoon.

The authorization bill provides for full funding for military operations in the Balkans, and excluded an earlier GOP provision that would have ended funding in September.

The Clinton administration also objected to the bill's failure to authorize two additional rounds of military base closings.

Dreier said the House would return after the Memorial Day recess to take up the defense authorization bill and would "look at some changes."

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