Senate panel approves 2014 defense spending bill

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By RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel has approved a defense spending bill for the 2014 fiscal year that seeks to reverse the most severe impacts of the across-the-board budget cuts on the armed forces by adding nearly $3.5 billion to cover shortfalls in military training and equipment maintenance programs.

But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, says Tuesday that the cuts, known as sequestration, have to be stopped because they are forcing Congress to play "whack-a-mole" with the defense budget.

For every program that receives a funding boost, another program takes a cut, Durbin says.

If Congress and the White House cannot agree on a plan to undo sequestration, the Pentagon must slice $52 billion from its budget for the 2014 fiscal year that begins October 1.

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