WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives cleared the way yesterday for the shutdown of 34 domestic military installations as the Pentagon announced that it will soon withdraw from 79 overseas facilities, mostly in Germany.
The 364-60 vote, endorsing the recommendations of a federal base-closing commission, will trigger shutdowns and realignments that are expected to save billions of dollars. But the cuts are likely to disrupt many communities and cost more than 58,000 military and civilian jobs.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announcement brought to 314 the number of foreign facilities closed or scaled down in the last year and a half, affecting 112,000 personnel.
Both at home and abroad, the scaling back has been prompted by the end of the Cold War and a major reshaping of the U.S. military. Lawmakers warned that there would be more waves of base closures as a projected 500,000 military people are laid off over the next five years.
The House action killed legislation that would have spared the domestic bases recently targeted for closing by an independent commission with the approval of President Bush.
Under a 1990 law aimed at removing partisan politics and parochial resistance from the base-closing process, the commission's recommendations were to take effect unless both the House and the Senate voted to reject the entire package.
Yesterday's House vote eliminated the need for Senate action.
The House also approved a separate measure requiring the next commission to include overseas bases on its hit list in 1993. The vote was 412-14.
Debate on the Democratic-sponsored bill ignited a partisan fight in which Democrats accused the Bush administration of dragging its feet on closing foreign bases -- and Republicans accused Democrats of cynically using the bill to defuse voter resentment over shutting domestic bases.
"This bill," Representative Gerald B. H. Solomon, R-N.Y., charged, "is either for political face-saving or to cover some other portion of the political anatomy of this body."
Representative Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., retorted that the bill was needed to balance the closings of bases at home with closings abroad.
"Here we have all these bases protecting the West Germans from the East Germans, but now the East Germans are all in West Germany shopping at the mall," she said.
As if intentionally timed to undercut the Democrats' complaints, word arrived that the Pentagon had just announced that it was ending or reducing operations at 79 facilities throughout Western Europe.
Most of the facilities marked for closure are in Germany, which bears the brunt of the U.S. military presence in Europe. Others announced yesterday are in Britain, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.