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Lawmakers Look Beyond The CR, To The War Supplemental

February 13, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The continuing resolution (CR), which must be approved by the Senate by Thursday, Feb. 15th in order to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government, is currently the topic of Senate debate. But even before debate on the CR had begun in the Senate, the bill was already weighed down with the maximum amount of amendments that can be offered to any one bill. All of theses amendments came from one person, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Reid proposed the amendments as a procedural maneuver, known as “filling the amendment tree,” that effectively blocks other senators from offering their own amendments. Time is short, and the amendments offered to this bill would be many if senators had their way, so Reid is blocking them all in order to pass the bill ahead of its approaching deadline. Despite the fact that they are without recourse on this particular bill, many in Congress are voicing their concerns with its funding levels, and are proposing another way to deal with their issues in a future bill.

For an overview of what the CR is and why it is necessary, read this article.

President Bush recently presented Congress with a supplemental appropriations request for an additional $93.4 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lawmakers that are worried about the shortcomings of program funding in the CR are looking ahead to debate on this war supplemental. They are planning to use the bill as a vessel to carry their amendments and enact funding for programs slashed by the CR.

Lawmakers are already looking to fund two major programs in the war supplemental:

BRAC Funding

Many Senate Republicans, and Democratic Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), have been concerned with a $3.1 billion cut to BRAC, the military‚Äôs base realignment and closure program. The cut to BRAC is the largest cut in the CR. The funds that it makes available are re-appropriated in the bill to fund education and health care programs. Opponents of the cut argue that it “would obstruct troop movements and hurt local economies in military communities.” It would also jeopardize environmental cleanup of former military base sites, they say.

Rural County Payments

Yesterday, Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Robert Wyden (D-OR) attempted to filibuster debate of the CR because it doesn’t renew the rural county payment program that provides money to timber communities. The forests that previously provided income for these communities are now under federal protection, and the communities now rely on these payments to have roads, schools, and law enforcement. The payments total about $385 million nationally. Smith and Wyden’s filibuster attempt was stopped Monday night by Senate leaders, but Smith is now planning to move the rural county payments through the Energy and Natural Resources panel, on which he sits, and ultimately attach it to the war supplemental.

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