Veto Threat For Bill Saving Bases

Mississippi U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, left, Lt. Gen. Clark Griffith (USAF Ret.) and Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway listen to opening remarks at the Southern regional hearing of the Base Realignment and Closure committee meeting Friday, July 22, 2005, in New Orleans. Mississippi is presenting it case to keeps some of its military bases from being closed.(
The Bush administration is threatening to veto a sweeping defense bill if lawmakers try to delay the latest round of military base closures to spare installations back home.

In a statement, the administration said it would "strongly oppose any amendment to weaken, delay or repeal" the base-closing process and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would recommend that the president veto any bill that includes such a provision.

Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who is trying to save Ellsworth Air Force Base, late Thursday proposed an amendment to the defense bill that would require the Pentagon to complete several operational reviews and return U.S. troops from Iraq before Congress signs off on the final version of the base-closing plan.

Thune's amendment has the support of Republicans and Democrats from Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey and New Mexico.

The Senate debated the bill Friday but may not complete work on it until September.

It's unclear whether Senate leaders and top members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who oppose the provision, GOP Sens. John Warner of Virginia and John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, have the votes to defeat it.