WASHINGTON - President Bush on Tuesday signed a big increase in the Pentagon's non-war budget, and vetoed a spending measure for health and education programs prized by congressional Democrats.
The president's action was announced on Air Force One as Bush flew to Indiana for a speech expected to criticize the Democratic-led Congress on its budget priorities.
More than any other spending bill, the $606 billion education and health measure defines the differences between Bush and majority Democrats. The House fell three votes short of winning a veto-proof margin as it sent the measure to Bush.
Since winning re-election, Bush has sought to cut the labor, health and education measure below the prior year level. But lawmakers have rejected the cuts. The budget that Bush presented in February sought almost $4 billion in cuts to this year's bill.
Democrats responded by adding $10 billion to Bush's request for the 2008 bill.
The $471 billion defense budget gives the Pentagon a 9 percent, $40 billion budget increase.
Much of the increase in the defense bill is devoted to procuring new and expensive weapons systems, including $6.3 billion for the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, $2.8 billion for the Navy's DD(X) destroyer and $3.1 billion for the new Virginia-class attack submarine.
Huge procurement costs are driving the Pentagon budget ever upward. Once war costs are added in, the total defense budget will be significantly higher than during the typical Cold War year, even after adjusting for inflation.
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