Dems consider measure to fund wars through July
Additional funding would be contingent on meeting certain conditions.
House Democratic leaders are weighing a proposal from House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., to provide full funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of July, but fence off additional funding after that until certain conditions are met.
Details of what benchmarks the Iraqi government must meet to trigger the next installment of funding were unclear. The administration's first report to Congress on meeting the benchmarks would be due by mid-July.
The measure would also contain as much as $10 billion in contingency funding for the military to provide a cushion for unforeseen needs. House Democratic aides confirmed the underlying proposal would also include extra funding for veterans' health, Gulf Coast recovery and to cover a children's health insurance coverage shortfall in 14 states.
Other domestic spending Democrats have proposed, such as money for agriculture disaster funds, would be considered separately, although that might make it more difficult to pass. Obey laid out the plan in a closed-door meeting with House Democratic leaders Thursday. His office declined to comment.
The Senate has been reluctant to extricate other spending from the bill, seeing the war funds as significant leverage with President Bush to push through other domestic priorities. There has also been opposition to funding the war in shorter-term installments. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said there was "no decision yet on how to proceed."
Democrats hope to have a bill on Bush's desk by Memorial Day. It remains unclear if the concept has the support of the entire House Democratic leadership, although Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was said to be considering it. Rank-and-file members also had yet to assess it, although he pitched it to a group of anti-war House Democrats Thursday. Many are uncomfortable with unfettered funding for Iraq operations.
An aide to a prominent liberal House Democrat said that while they were still digesting the proposal, members who were briefed are unlikely to block the concept. "I don't know if we would vote for it, but certainly wouldn't stand in the way of it," said the aide.
The proposal is unlikely to gain the support of House GOP leaders. "I know that would be a nonstarter fast track to a second veto," said a senior House GOP leadership aide.