It took until the wee hours on Saturday morning, but the Senate approved the “omnibus” Veterans Affairs $3.2 billion bill, followed Friday’s House passage of the legislation. The bill, which now goes to President Bush, funnels $600 million into the repair or new construction of veterans facilities in hurricane-devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast; provides for construction of new facilities nationwide; funds the hiring of more clinicians to treat veterans returning from Southwest Asia; increases funding for programs assisting homeless vets; and creates an office of rural health for veterans. Senate veterans committee chair Larry Craig (R-Idaho), said in a statement: “There were some serious disagreements between members on a few issues, but everyone compromised a little. That’s what it takes.” His counterpart in the House, Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), underscored that sentiment, saying, “Congress worked in a bipartisan effort to pass this important bill, and the winners are veterans and their families.”
In a nighttime ceremony contrived to continue concealment of many of its features, the new B-21 bomber rolled out of Northrop Grumman's Palmdale, Calif. plant Dec. 2. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the aircraft's advanced technology represents "deterrence, the American way."