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Congress approves base closings in 2005

Congress gave final approval Thursday to a $343 billion defense authorization bill that provides for a new round of military base closures starting in 2005, military pay raises, funding for President Bush's missile defense program and anti- terrorism money.

The Senate's 96-2 approval, in the midst of a procedural tangle, came after the House voted to approve the conference report, 382-40, earlier in the day. The measure now goes to the President.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Friday that President Bush would sign the bill, even though he would have preferred a quicker timetable for closing what the administration views as unneeded military bases.

The bill authorizes spending by the Defense Department and the military efforts of the Energy Department for the budget year that began Oct. 1. It contains a $33 billion increase over 2001 spending, up 10.6 percent.