New bill to bring pay hike for military

Military families across the country await President Bush's signature on newly passed legislation that would give America's servicemen and women a pay raise and continue to fund the war onterrorism.

A $612 billion defense bill passed both houses of Congress late last week, and included a 3.9 percent pay raise for military personnel, $70 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and $3.2 billion for new military housing and tuition assistance. Additional legislation will be needed to appropriate the money.

All of the state's six members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted for the bill, but both of its senators -- Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham -- voted against it.

Graham and DeMint were two of eight senators -- and two of five Republicans -- to vote against the bill when it came to a vote Sept. 17.

The bill passed 88-8 in the Senate and quickly moved through the House, 392-32.

Graham said the exclusion of a resolution praising the troop surge in Iraq in the summer of 2003, a move endorsed by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona, was the reason he voted against the bill.

"Our men and women in uniform deserve a vote from every United State senator saying whether they believe the surge has worked," Graham said through his press secretary in Washington. "The moment has come for the Senate to speak with one voice and admit the success of the surge. Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership fought our resolution tooth and nail and used every procedural tool in the book to keep it from coming up for a vote. Our troops deserve better."

The resolution, co-authored by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., called for the recognition of"the success of the troop surge in Iraq and its strategic significance ... as a strategic victory in a central front of the war on terrorism."

In a statement, DeMint said the resolution was only part of the reason for his "no" vote, citing $5 billion in "secret earmarks," funding cuts for security forces' training and inflexibility for ground commanders as other factors.

The bill gave the Marine Corps more than $1.4 billion and $1.1 billion to the Navy and Marine Corps to spend on ammunition in the 2008-09 fiscal year, which began Wednesday and ends Sept. 30.

Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island rely on the federal funding, both for military construction projects and for the bases' general operating budgets.

Parris Island will receive $53.5 million in operational and maintenance funds this fiscal year, said Keith Bass, comptroller for the depot.

Bass said that figure does not include $52.7 million for the Eastern Recruiting Region or additional funds for military construction projects. In addition to being a basic training facility, the depot serves as the headquarters for the Corps' Eastern Recruiting Region, which encompasses Puerto Rico and the United States east of the Mississippi River.