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Senate to Vote on War Funding Today

May 22, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE: This is surprising. The domestic spending and the GI bill, which ended up getting lumped together, just passed the Senate by a veto-proof margin.

The Crypt reports:

>What was most surprising was not that the domestic funding amendment and the GI bill won a majority of the Senate votes, but that nearly half of the Senate’s 49 Republicans bucked President Bush and GOP presidential candidate John McCain to back the dramatically expanded GI bill. Many uncertain Republicans stood in the well of the Senate, taking their time to make a decision. Virtually every GOP senator who is politically vulnerable this year voted for the domestic spending, including Sens. John Sununu of New Hampshire and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
>The Senate has moved on to an Iraq funding bill with a troop withdrawal deadline, and that measure is expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate. After that, Democrats are expected to pull the troop withdrawal mandate and pass a straightforward troop funding amendment, which will be combined with the domestic spending measure already approved.

Original post below, (cross-posted from SENATUS):

After a week filled with little floor-related work on war funding proposals, the Senate is set to take up a series of related votes today. The process, like that of the House, is quite complex. The Associated Press has a good breakdown of how the votes should play out in this article.

An agreement was reached between Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) that would provide for up to four votes related to the war supplemental. Keep in mind that each item will require 60 affirmative votes to pass. Here’s a brief and hopefully simple breakdown of the process which assumes that the votes go the way they are predicted to go:

  • The first vote will come on a war funding proposal with billions of dollars in domestic program funding added on. The AP has that price tag being as much as $28 billion. Included in this package are unemployment benefit extensions, LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) funding and some $5.8 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery activities, among other things. This vote is widely expected to fail, although the hurricane relief funding could sway some Republican members from that area.
  • The second vote will be taken on a new GI bill similar to the program authored by Senator Webb (D-VA). The AP estimates the cost of this proposal at around $52 billion over the next ten years. The provisions within the GI bill would essentially provide a free, four-year public university education to veterans who served in active-duty roles after September 11, 2001. Democratic leaders are cautiously optimistic that this vote will pass, but it should be very close.
  • The third vote will come on a war funding bill that has timetable withdrawal and other deployment restrictions tied to it. In the past, votes related to these restrictions have failed [more on this fr4om Russ Feingold here].
  • The fourth vote will take place on a war funding bill priced at around $165 billion. This version is considered to be a “clean” bill with no additional spending or restrictions tied to it. This vote will likely pass.

As always, this is all subject to a last-minute change. Democratic members, if they are being realistic, are hoping for a “clean” war funding bill with the Webb GI bill proposal attached to it. Republican members, many of whom are upset with the legislative process and the inability to have a vote on their alternative GI proposal, hope they can sway enough votes to defeat the GI bill and pass only the war funding.

Republican members will be forced to take some tough election-year votes today, especially if they choose to defeat a proposal providing education benefits to veterans as well as the separate domestic spending proposal. Democratic members will be able to avoid at least some of those tough votes after successfully preventing the Republican GI bill alternative from receiving a side-by-side vote.

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