Bush wary as House sets votes on new war funding bill

Iraq bill would provide funding for three months, with a vote on extending funding for the rest of the fiscal year to come in July.

The White House on Tuesday rejected emerging House legislation that would require another vote on emergency war funding in July, even as House Democratic leaders scheduled votes on the two-part measure later in the week.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said a vote on supplemental aid for Iraq, recovery from Hurricane Katrina and a boost of the federal minimum wage would be held Thursday. A separate vote on a measure to provide relief to farmers and ranchers whose businesses have been hurt by natural disasters in recent years would take place Friday.

The Iraq bill would provide funding for three months, with a vote on extending funding for the rest of the fiscal year to come in July, at the same time the House considers the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriations bill, Hoyer said.

At the White House, Press Secretary Tony Snow criticized the short-term funding approach but stopped just short of saying President Bush would veto it. "We think it's bad management," Snow said. "It's kind of a start-and-stop measure. It denies commanders and forces the kind of predictability they need to be able to plan effectively."

Support for the bill, which would drop troop withdrawal guidelines that prompted Bush to veto the first supplemental, appeared to be gaining momentum among the liberal and conservative wings of the House Democratic Caucus. But lawmakers and aides said more selling is needed before the measure, pushed by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., comes to the floor later in the week.

Some members of the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday expressed concern that breaking off the emergency agriculture money from the war-funding bill might lessen the chances of passing the farm provisions. But Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said it would provide lawmakers an "opportunity to show bipartisan support" for the farm aid.

Tuesday, with the legislation under discussion at the weekly Democratic Caucus meeting, Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., a conservative Vietnam veteran who opposed the initial $124.2 billion supplemental conference report and Democratic resolution opposing Bush's troop "surge" plan, seemed to be warming to Obey's plan.

"If we have a clean bill to fund the war ... I'll vote for it. I don't know why I would vote against that," Marshall said.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, a member of the liberal Out of Iraq Caucus, said he was not yet convinced. But he said the caucus discussion was helpful.

"It was not confrontational, but a good give and take and kind of the first time as a group we've had this discussion and I want to mull it over and think about the implications," he said. "I certainly don't want to get to a point where we come full circle and just give President Bush unlimited power for unlimited war."

House GOP leaders called the idea of a second vote in July on the bulk of funding as the "ultimate gift" to terrorists in Iraq that would not leave enough time for the troop surge to work. "It is unconscionable that they want to fund the war 60 days at a time," said Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo.