WASHINGTON - Congress gave final approval Wednesday to legislation authorizing the Pentagon to spend nearly $160 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this budget year without major curbs on the conduct of operations.
The bill passed the House and Senate on voice votes after Democrats agreed to strip it of some provisions, including one opposed by Republicans that would have allowed gays to serve openly in the military.
The provision to overturn the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was approved earlier in a separate bill and President Obama signed it into law Wednesday.
The House, which approved the defense-spending bill last Friday, had to consider it again as the Senate cut out a provision on payments of World War II claims to residents and survivors in Guam.
The Democratic delegate from Guam, Madeleine Bordallo, said the Senate eliminated the payments because some senators objected to the cost. She said elimination of the money could adversely affect U.S. plans for a military buildup on the island.
Congress considers the defense authorization bill its primary chance to sway Pentagon policy. While it does not transfer money to Defense Department coffers, it serves as a blueprint for the defense appropriations bill by authorizing spending levels.
This year's bill agreed to $158.7 billion for overseas combat as part of $725 billion in defense programs for the year ending Sept. 30.
Among its numerous provisions is a 1.4 percent pay raise for troops and a guarantee that children of service members can stay covered under the military's TRICARE health-care program until they are 26 years of age.
The bill also continues restrictions on the Defense Department's ability to close Guantanamo Bay, including prohibiting the transfer of detainees to the United States.
This year's bill is mostly noteworthy for its broad bipartisan support.
Last Thursday, a White House review of war progress in Afghanistan suggested that tough combat would continue for years and that planned troop withdrawals in 2011 would probably be small.