The House on Thursday plans to consider a compromise war funding bill hammered out by the chamber’s Democratic and Republican leadership that has the support of the White House.
The agreement, which follows several weeks of wrangling both within the Democratic Caucus and between House Democratic leaders and the White House, makes it possible for the bill to be sent to President Bush before the end of the month.
“This agreement has required significant compromise by both sides,” said Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey , D-Wis., who was his party’s chief negotiator.
The White House praised the agreement.
“If this is the deal, we’re obviously very hopeful,” said White House Budget Director Jim Nussle . “It meets the president’s requirements of the troops.”
Details are still being finalized, but the heart of the deal is that the bill will include about $165 billion in funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to last the rest of this year and into June 2009; a large expansion of a veterans’ education benefit, the GI bill, that will not be offset; and a 13-week extension of unemployment insurance for all states.
According to GOP aides, the bill (
In addition, the supplemental is expected to postpone six Medicaid regulations that Bush had proposed. The original House version of the war funding bill had delayed seven regulations, and a separate piece of legislation (
The supplemental bill is also expected to include $2.65 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund, Army Corps of Engineers and Small Business Administration to address recent flooding in the Midwest, Nussle said. He added that it would provide $5.8 billion in fiscal 2009 funds for levees in Louisiana, which had been requested by the administration.
Senate Open to Moving Measure
The Senate still could present obstacles to getting the bill cleared by Congress, but early indications are that the chamber’s Democratic leadership is open to moving the agreement.
Senate Democrats have been pushing to advance a bill that would include funding for domestic priorities such as a low-income energy program and local law enforcement grants, but the White House is against this added funding. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer , D-Md., and Speaker Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., met late Wednesday afternoon to brief Senate Democratic leaders on the agreement.
“Early reports indicate the House will send us a supplemental that includes a GI bill, extends unemployment insurance and provides disaster relief — three important priorities we have been pushing for some time,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev. “We look forward to reviewing the House’s complete proposal, and we will take it up quickly once we receive it.”
House Makes Deal on War Funding
House Democrats, led by Obey, have been trying to write a bill that will become law rather than provoke a veto fight with Bush. Obey canceled two full committee markups of fiscal 2009 spending bills scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday to concentrate on reaching an agreement on the supplemental spending measure.
Democrats have pushed hard for the expanded veterans’ benefit and hailed its inclusion in the final bill as a victory.
“After 17 months of working with veterans’ groups and colleagues, it appears that Sen. Webb’s goal of providing a comprehensive GI bill for our newest generation of veterans is about to be realized,” said Jessica Smith, a spokeswoman for Jim Webb , D-Va., who introduced the bill (
‘Blue Dogs,’ Anti-War Democrats Lose
Still, the details of the agreement, as described by congressional aides, are sure to leave some members of the Democratic Caucus disappointed.
For instance, House “Blue Dogs,” a group of 49 fiscally conservative Democrats, have pushed to offset the $52 billion, 10-year cost of the expanded veterans’ benefit. That offset has now been dropped, and Democrats have agreed to a White House proposal to allow veterans to transfer this benefit to family members, which is likely to add an additional $10 billion to the cost of the benefit.
In addition, the agreement will provide a less-generous unemployment extension than Democrats proposed, according to GOP aides.
Last week the House passed a bill (
The lack of any conditions on the war funding will disappoint anti-war Democrats.
Regardless, Democratic and Republican leaders expect the agreement to be approved.
Two separate votes on the bill are expected: one on an amendment containing the war funding and one on an amendment containing the domestic policy and spending items.
Under the expected rule for floor debate, once both amendments are adopted, the bill will be sent to the Senate with no final vote on the total package. This will allow the bill to move forward with Republicans voting for the war funding and Democrats supporting the domestic amendment. This protects members from specifically voting for items they oppose.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner , R-Ohio, who helped strike the compromise, criticized Democrats for not moving a war funding bill earlier in the year but praised the final product for not including war policy restrictions and the added domestic funding supported by the Senate.