More domestic spending sought in emerging supplemental

Extra $3 billion to $4 billion would come in addition to funds for new unemployment benefits and GI education.

House Democratic leaders are looking to add $3 billion to $4 billion in domestic spending to the emergency war supplemental beyond economic stimulus and troop-related funds, according to leadership sources.

Although still a moving target, that spending would come in addition to the likely $12 billion for both 13 extra weeks of unemployment benefits for those whose eligibility has expired and a boost in GI education spending that has broad, bipartisan support.

With final decisions on the package still to be made, a senior aide in the Democratic leadership said discussions now have moved to including money to cover shortfalls in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children as well as for census programs.

The administration is said to be looking to move existing funds from other programs around to cover WIC shortfalls.

Sources said leaders negotiating the measure are also looking to add one-time payments to Filipino World War II veterans, who have never received veterans' benefits. The Senate approved a bill Thursday that would expand benefits to those men, a move sources said was supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

As many as 6,000 of those veterans in the United States live in California, with 12,000 in the Philippines. Those veterans fought alongside U.S. forces against the Japanese early in the war. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, sponsored the measure, which would create around $250 million in new benefits over 10 years, but it is unclear just how much of the Senate bill would be adopted in the stimulus package.

Aides said Democratic leaders are also considering putting in language to block new Bush administration regulations decreasing Medicaid payments to states by around $13 billion over the next five years. Such legislation was overwhelmingly approved by the House Wednesday but faces a veto threat from President Bush, who has also said he would not accept a package that exceeds his $108 billion request for war funding.

Because of that threat, Democrats are expected to combine the administration's $108 billion initial funding request for Iraq and Afghanistan operations for the rest of fiscal 2008 with $70 billion in "bridge" funding for the first several months of fiscal 2009.

Sources said Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., has hundreds of items that could potentially be added to the package, but has argued against a massive amount for domestic funding. A decision was made to limit domestic funding to stave off opposition from the White House and congressional Republicans. The measure also is likely to bypass the regular committee process and go straight to the floor in separate war policy, war funding and domestic funding votes. The tactic would be an effort by Democratic leaders to overcome potential hurdles from anti-war stalwarts in their own Caucus and Republicans intent on adding their own wish list items to the bill in committee.

"This is where things could get added to placate them (antiwar Democratic liberals)," said one Democratic leadership aide. "But many of those people can't be bought."