Democrats' Plan to Fund the WarMay 6, 2008 - by Donny Shaw
Details of the supplemental war funding bill have finally emerged. President Bush has requested an extra $108 billion this fiscal year for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill would provide all but $3.4 billion of that, plus an extra $66 billion to fund the wars through the first part of fiscal year ‘09. In exchange for all the extra war money, Democrats in Congress are going to try to get the President to back off his threat to veto and sign some domestic program spending that they may add to it, though they don’t seem very optimistic about their chances. The bill may be voted on in the House as early as Thursday.
Congress Daily ($) reports:
>House Democratic leaders briefed lawmakers about specifics in the package in a closed meeting this afternoon. Separate votes will be taken on war funding, nonwar spending and war policy language. House Speaker Pelosi told reporters the supplemental was close to Bush’s funding request, with only a few focused domestic spending provisions to help the flagging economy. Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it includes domestic spending. “I think when you see the supplemental, you will see it is a very reasoned bill within a very short distance from the president’s numbers,” Pelosi said. “But all we want to say is that we need [to extend] unemployment insurance and we need a GI bill of rights for education for our troops when they come home.”
>Pelosi held out the possibility that items that do not end up in the war supplemental could become part of a second economic stimulus package. Beyond the extension of unemployment benefits and education funding for veterans, sources said the nondefense portion of the supplemental also includes a boost above the $770 million Bush requested for international food aid, along with funding for Medicaid and other programs. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said today Democrats should not seek to include unemployment benefits or other domestic priorities in the supplemental. She suggested that such priorities could be dealt with in a different vehicle but argued that any new stimulus should await a verdict on whether the one passed early this year has helped. “We feel strongly that the Iraq war supplemental should remain for national security needs,” Perino said.
The President has consistently followed through with the vetoes he has threatened. WIth FY ‘08 war funding reduced and domestic funding added (the two things he has explicitly objected to), it would be very surprising if he ends up accepting the bill. And since many congressional Democrats have been scared stiff of being seen as blocking war funding, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that President Bush will be able to successfully demand that they follow up his veto with a supplemental bill that contains almost no additional spending or Iraq policy language.
However, something like this may make it into the final, enacted version:
>A House bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year would press Baghdad to match every dollar the US spends on reconstruction projects worth more than $750,000, as well as training and equipping its security forces, according to Democratic aides.
>The provision is part of the latest push by Democrats and many Republicans to try to get Iraq to spend more of its own money. With the country’s oil production on the rise and record-high fuel prices, Iraq is looking toward a massive budget surplus this year while the US is grappling with a spending deficit.