Supplemental likely to carry veterans' education funds
Funding measure is not expected to include any controversial war policy provisions.
Democratic leaders' plans to attach limited domestic spending to the emergency war supplemental will include a popular plan to boost GI education spending, according to Democratic leadership sources.
Although final decisions have not been made, the education measure is part of a strategy to include spending that "Republicans can't say no to," said aides.
Discussions also have included a limited extension of unemployment insurance benefits, funding for wildfire firefighting efforts and aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Leaders also are considering putting in language to block new Bush administration regulations decreasing Medicaid spending by around $13 billion over the next five years. Such legislation was overwhelmingly approved by the House Wednesday but faces a veto threat. "We're putting together our supplemental bill," said House Speaker Nacny Pelosi, D-Calif. "When it is ready we will announce it to you."
Any domestic funding would be part of a massive package combining $108 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan operations for the rest of fiscal 2008 and $70 billion for the first several months of fiscal 2009. 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 measure is not expected to include any controversial war policy provisions, as Democratic leaders look to avoid a veto and anti-war factions in their Caucus.
"There is recognition we need it now, the sooner the better, and going to committee slows that down," said one Democratic leadership aide.
They also face difficulties from House Republicans. Appropriations Committee ranking member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., announced Thursday he would offer the Senate-passed overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as an amendment should the supplemental come before the committee.
Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Thursday acknowledged the popularity of the GI education funding, but decried any plan to bypass the regular committee process.
"To just tack it onto a supplemental without hearings, without the committee process doesn't seem like the best way to legislate," said Boehner. "Their ability to control what goes on to these bills, they don't have a very good track record."
It is unclear exactly how Congress would appropriate the fiscal 2009 dollars, but it likely will include operations and maintenance and military personnel dollars. A senior military official said he hopes it also includes billions to repair and replace equipment lost and damaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I think the bridge [funding] is a great idea to get us rolling in the new [fiscal year] and to cover war costs, but it also needs to cover reset," the official said. The Army and Marine Corps received reset funding at the outset of fiscal 2007 as part of a bridge fund attached to the annual Defense spending bill -- a move service leaders lauded.
That, however, has not been the case this fiscal year, with the Army still waiting for a large chunk of its fiscal 2008 reset funds. "There is still $7.6 billion for the Army sitting out there and time is not on our side," Army Vice Chief of Staff Richard Cody told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month. The military argues that providing those funds at the beginning of the fiscal year allows the military to get a jump start on equipment purchases and overhauls and provides adequate time to order enough spare and replacement parts to keep depot lines running throughout the year.