House leaders remain undecided on supplemental strategy

House Democratic leaders remain unsettled Wednesday night on whether they will take up a Senate-passed version of the war supplemental, or proceed with marking up a House version.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., concluded a meeting Wednesday night without a decision, and will meet again on Thursday, House leadership sources said.

Obey would not discuss after the meeting which alternative is likely, saying he does not discuss process.

Hoyer, prior to the meeting, sought to clarify what he had said earlier in the day during his weekly news conference, in which he discussed possibly taking up the Senate's bill.

"I read what I said, and it was more definitive than I should have stated," Hoyer said. "We could take the Senate bill, but Mr. Obey is still considering whether he wants to do our own supplemental. ... He hasn't told me we are going to or not going to.

"But, as I said, we have the option of doing either," said Hoyer. "Obviously, if Mr. Obey and the [Appropriations] Committee move the bill, we will consider his bill."

House appropriators had set the $84 billion House version of the bill for consideration before the Memorial Day recess, but the committee never scheduled a markup amid a crunch of floor activity.

It includes billions for nondefense spending and $23 billion in education money to prevent teacher layoffs.

The Senate did pass its $59 billion version, 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.

But on the way to passage there, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, dropped his efforts to add the $23 billion in education funding to the Senate bill because he said he did not have the votes.

Other key differences in the two chambers' bills remain, including $5.7 billion in the House 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.

At issue is whether the House will simply take up the Senate bill, and make changes, ping-ponging it back to the Senate.

The military can spend fourth-quarter dollars to cover essential war bills until the supplemental is enacted.

Megan Scully contributed to this report.

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