House could take up Senate supplemental

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Wednesday said the House may take up the Senate-passed version of the war supplemental appropriations bill, bypassing a House Appropriations Committee markup of the spending measure.

"We can just take up the Senate bill," Hoyer said Wednesday. "And right now ... in light of the fact the Senate's already passed a supplemental, would be to work on that supplemental."

Hoyer added that House Appropriations Chairman David Obey has no plans at this point to mark up his supplemental, which he released just before the Memorial Day recess.

House appropriators had planned to consider their version of the bill May 27, but canceled the markup due to a flurry of pre-recess floor activity. The committee never rescheduled the markup.

An Obey spokesman had no comment.

The House bill, which totaled $84 billion and included billions for nondefense spending, contains $23 billion in education money intended to avert thousands of teacher layoffs at elementary and secondary schools. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, dropped efforts to add the funding to the Senate bill because he said he did not have the 60 votes necessary.

Asked today about the $23 billion in education money, Hoyer said, "We're going to work on it."

There are also other significant differences in the two chambers' bills, including $5.7 billion in the House's bill for Pell grants. The House bill includes $677.2 million for border security efforts that are not funded in the Senate's version of the supplemental.

Last month, the White House said it would need $500 million in supplemental funding to pay for border protection and law enforcement activities along the Southwest border.

One legislative option would be ping-ponging the supplemental between the two chambers until a final deal on it is reached.

"I'm not saying that's what we're going to do," Hoyer said. But he added such a route "would be a logical conclusion" and "may well be the easiest way to facilitate passage of the bill."

The Senate's version of the war supplemental totals $59 billion, including $33.5 billion for the Defense Department for the remainder of the fiscal year to cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, counterterrorism efforts, and the response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Pentagon officials had said they needed the money by Memorial Day to avoid a disruption in their accounts. The military can spend fourth-quarter dollars to cover essential war bills until the supplemental is enacted.

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