Senator seeks to move military pay provision

With the timing of the defense authorization bill still in limbo, Senate Republicans today agreed to attach provisions boosting military personnel pay and benefits to either the fiscal 2006 Defense appropriations bill or some other spending measure, Senate aides said.

Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., made the request in a Thursday letter to Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, in which he accused Democrats of slowing work on the authorization measure.

Frist charged in the letter that Democrats "seemingly [prefer] to place the needs of our troops beneath their desire for an open-ended debate on partisan issues," and asked Stevens to work with House leaders to attach the troop pay provisions to the Defense spending bill.

In a reply also sent Thursday, Stevens agreed to try to include the language in either the Defense bill or one of the other annual spending measures.

The authorization measure -- and the troop pay increase and benefit provisions in particular -- have been the subject of an intense and increasingly bitter back and forth between Frist and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The offices of both leaders have been involved in a media war for more than week, with each accusing the other of holding up the measure.

While Democrats have complained Frist has put the authorization measure on the back burner in order to address other GOP priorities, Republicans have argued that the only impediment to the authorization bill has been Reid's demand that it be linked to a vote on an independent commission to investigate the Gulf Coast response by the Bush administration.

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