US House passes $700 billion defence Bill, Senate vote due

WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives adopted an annual US defence spending Bill on Thursday which includes emergency funding for military operations against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, as requested by President Barack Obama.

The Senate still must pass the legislation - outlining US$584.2 billion (S$767 billion) in federal military spending for fiscal year 2015, which began on Oct 1 - before Congress adjourns at the end of next week.

The Republican-led House passed the measure by a vote of 300 to 119.

The Bill, a culmination of months of negotiations, extends training and equipping for moderate Syrian rebels, a programme that had been authorised to last only until Dec 11, using existing Pentagon money.

It also includes Obama's US$5 billion request for funds to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria extremist group, including US$3.4 billion for deployment of US forces as part of operation "Inherent Resolve," and US$1.6 billion for a programme to equip and train Iraqi Kurdish forces for two years.

Obama's request for US$520 million for the State Department's humanitarian and diplomatic efforts was also included.

"The security threats our nation faces are as grave as they are prolific, and it is imperative that we provide our military men and women the tools they need to keep America safe," House Speaker John Boehner said after the Bill's passage.

In another area, the law extends restrictions on closing the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A ban on transferring detainees to the United States, in force since 2011, was renewed despite opposition from Obama.

Republicans fear the detainees might be freed by a judge and thus constitute a threat to national security.

Thirteen prisoners have been sent to other countries this year, and 142 men remain in the prison.

The overall defence authorisation includes US$63.7 billion for overseas operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Defence spending accounts for just over half of the US government's budget for so-called discretionary spending, which excludes social welfare.