The House approved an $8.3 billion military construction appropriations bill yesterday that continued to chip away at some of the Reagan administration's defense spending priorities.
The measure was adopted, 371 to 48, after the House voted, 281 to 140, to reject an amendment that would have cut about $72 million from the appropriation.
Overall, the bill provided $1.7 billion less than sought by the administration, which complained about the funding level and warned that several important construction and modernization projects might have to be delayed or canceled.
The bill deleted $100 million requested by the administration for a National Test Facility in Colorado for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the space-based antimissile program.
It also cut in half, to $1 million, the amount of funds available for other SDI-related construction projects.
Other administration requests that were deleted from the legislation included $16 million for an antisatellite weapons facility at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, $3.5 million for preliminary design of a rail-based system for the MX missile and most of the $55 million sought for construction projects in Panama.
The House Appropriations Committee said it deferred action on the Panama request because of the lack of a long-term policy statement on the U.S. role in Central America.
The attempt to impose a $72 million, across-the-board cut in the legislation was made by an ad hoc group of House members seeking to slash all appropriations bill by one-half the proposed increases in spending from current funding levels.
Rep. Thomas J. Tauke (R-Iowa), a member of the group, pleaded with his fellow Republicans to begin implementing their expressions of concern about the federal budget deficit.
While many lawmakers favor budget cuts, Tauke said, "it's always cut someplace else, but don't cut the program I think is important or is important to my constituents." Failure of conservative Republicans to support cuts in spending for military construction will mean "you will let everybody else off the hook" on cuts in programs they strongly favor, Tauke said.
Rep. W.G. (Bill) Hefner (D-N.C.), chairman of the Appropriations military construction subcommittee, replied that much of the money in the bill was earmarked for housing and other critical needs of U.S. military personnel around the world.
"We didn't fund swimming pools," he said. "We didn't fund auditoriums. We didn't fund the frills, we funded the bare necessities."
Despite Tauke's plea, almost half of House Republicans opposed the $72 million cut.