Majority leader wants budget resolution by Memorial Day


House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Thursday said he hopes to pass a fiscal 2011 budget resolution and the war supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq and Afghanistan by the Memorial Day recess.

"I am hopeful that that will be the case," Hoyer said on the floor when asked about the time frame by Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.

House Democratic leaders have been working to bridge differences within their Caucus over discretionary spending. The Blue Dog Coalition is pushing a 2 percent a year cut in nonsecurity discretionary funds for three years and a freeze for another two. Liberal Democrats are opposed, concerned that the cuts are too deep to programs important to constituents.

"We are still working on the budget," Hoyer told Cantor in their weekly colloquy. "We will hopefully bring that forward when it's ready."

Earlier Thursday, Hoyer, Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., and Budget Commitee Chairman John Spratt, D-S.C., met in Obey's office off the floor, but upon leaving said no agreement had been reached.

"There is a lively debate going on among ourselves and the people whose votes we need to win to pass" the spending plan, Spratt said.

He added that the meeting in Obey's office was about the negotiations with the Blue Dogs and that agreement on a discretionary spending level remains an issue.

Chances for an agreement on a budget resolution appear low. One Democratic lawmaker had spoken Wednesday evening with Obey -- a champion of progressive Democrats in the House -- and Obey said he did not see how a compromise could be struck.

"He just doesn't see that the Blue Dogs are going to give on anything," the lawmaker said. Spratt said that talks will continue.

"We are not ready to throw in the towel, so we'll keep negotiating," Spratt said. "Nobody is putting any deadlines down or any ultimatums or anything like that; we are simply trying to find common ground."

Spratt said he expects to have more meetings on the budget resolution next week.

As for the war supplemental, Hoyer said the Pentagon will need the money in the summer.

"It's important ... that we move soon and I hope to do that," Hoyer told Cantor.

But Democratic leaders will have to decide whether to include other items in the must-pass bill, such as funding to create jobs. Republicans have called for the supplemental to be free of such provisions.

Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Committee Chairman Rep. David Price, D-N.C., said this week that the measure could include funding for border security.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has said he was eyeing the supplemental as a vehicle to advance a $23 billion education jobs bill aimed at curbing teacher layoffs.

Lawmakers have not ruled out using the supplemental to provide funds to the Gulf Coast to blunt the economic impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began April 20.

The supplemental request, which was sent to Capitol Hill in February, includes $37.5 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of fiscal 2010. Of that, $33 billion is for military operations and $4.5 billion is for the State Department's civilian operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to aid for Pakistan.

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