Supplemental CatchallApril 17, 2008 - by Donny Shaw
An upcoming supplemental funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be Democrats’ best chance to have President Bush sign their remaining domestic priorities into law before the session ends. The President has asked Congress for an additional $108.1 billion for the wars in 2008. But members of the Democratic leadership are formulating a plan that would give Bush much more than he asked for — this year’s war money, an additional $70 billion for the wars in fiscal year 2009 and a wide smattering of domestic funds.
>"This would be a strong possibility," said one senior Democratic aide, adding that by passing 2009 war funding now, Congress “could provide the next president the ability to use the funds any way they wish.”
>The aide said that a Democratic president, for example, would be free to use the money to begin withdrawing troops.
>More immediately, Democratic leaders believe that by offering more than $170 billion in war funding, they can blunt Republican attacks on them for failing to support the troops, a senior Democratic appropriator said. The lawmaker, who declined to be identified, said the strategy also would increase Democrats’ leverage to seek extra discretionary funding.
>The Senate panel is considering including around $24 billion in domestic funding, a Senate aide said, with about $10 billion of that to be set aside for infrastructure projects such as bridge and road repairs.
>It also could include funding for economic “stimulus” items, such as unemployment insurance, as Democrats try to link the war’s cost to the struggling U.S. economy.
>Other possible add-ons include $500 million for the World Food Programme and $350 million for wildfire suppression programs, appropriators said.
They may also try adding a bipartisan bill to increase college education benefits for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a popular proposal that Bush supports — including it in the supplemental package would make it much more difficult for him to veto the bill.
There haven’t been any official statements on this, so details are hard to confirm. But it’s been speculated by various aides that Bush’s requested war funding level for 2008 – $108.1 billion – may be reduced by Democrats to about $102 billion in order to make room for the domestic spending. They may also bypass the normal committee process and bring the bill straight to the floors of the House and Senate to avoid a lengthy and contentious markup.
The war supplemental will be officially in introduced in the next couple of weeks and on the floor of the House in early May. In the meantime, Democrats will continue their push to link the growing costs of the war with the economic problems back home.