Defense Budget Passed

The Pentagon will get an additional $25 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and 7 percent more for the rest of its programs in a $417.5 billion defense bill Congress overwhelmingly approved yesterday.

Eager to affirm its support for the military less than four months from Election Day, the Senate approved the measure 96 to 0 and the House approved it by 410 to 12. The votes came hours before Congress was to start a six-week summer recess.

The bill now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.

The $25 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan represented a victory for Congress over Bush, who began the year insisting no extra funds would be needed until after the elections.

Under pressure from lawmakers, he requested the money in May and said he would not need to spend it until autumn. He proposed being able to move the money among Pentagon accounts as he wished.

Instead, the war money will be available when Bush signs the measure into law. He will be able to shift only $2 billion without Congress's permission.

The bill also provides for 39 more Army Black Hawk helicopters, a Virginia-class attack submarine and a 3.5 percent pay raise for the troops. It was the first of the 13 spending bills financing the government for 2005 that the Republican-run House and Senate sent to the White House.

Greenwood Takes Biotech Job

Rep. James C. Greenwood (R-Pa.) was named president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a trade group with a $40 million annual budget that lobbies for more than 1,000 pharmaceutical and biotech companies. He will complete his term in the House and begin his new job on Jan. 5.

The announcement came four days after a House panel chaired by Greenwood abruptly canceled a scheduled hearing on the safety of antidepressant medicines. Critics questioned whether the cancellation was affected by Greenwood's negotiations for the trade group position.

Greenwood said he recused himself from chairing the hearing after the trade group offered him the job on July 16. He added that the hearing was delayed because the panel's chief counsel would not have had enough time to brief the vice chairman on the issues.

A spokesman for the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations said the chief counsel is away and that a new hearing date will be set soon.

Access to Morning-After Pills

The maker of Plan B morning-after birth control pills asked the government to reconsider allowing over-the-counter sales of the product -- but only for women 16 and older.

The Food and Drug Administration in May rejected non-prescription sales of the emergency contraceptive, overruling its scientific advisers who had overwhelmingly called easier access to morning-after pills a safe way to prevent thousands of abortions.

The FDA said its decision reflected concern about how young teenagers might use the pills. Agency officials pledged to reconsider if manufacturer Barr Laboratories either provided data on young teenagers' use -- or proposed a way to sell over the counter only to those 16 and older.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports