White House threatening to veto war supplemental bill

Amendments include a non-binding requirement for troop withdrawal from Iraq and an increase in veterans' education benefits.

The White House issued a veto threat Thursday against the emergency supplemental war funding package because the bill would impose limitations on military commanders in the field, provide unrelated domestic funding and raise taxes.

The $183.7 billion package, expected to pass the House Thursday, consists of three distinct amendments.

The first includes $96.6 billion to fund the war for the rest of fiscal 2008, and $65.9 billion for part of fiscal 2009.

Those figures are less than the $100 billion for fiscal 2008 and $66 billion for fiscal 2009 requested by President Bush.

House Democratic leaders expect the war-funding portion to pass with a majority of Republican votes.

The second amendment will include war policy rules, such as a non binding requirement that troops begin to be withdrawn from Iraq within 30 days of the proposal becoming law, with a goal of completing withdrawal by December 2009. The second part of the package is expected to be passed with a majority of Democratic support.

The third amendment includes an increase of veterans' education benefits. The provision, estimated to cost more than $51 billion over 10 years, will be offset by a 0.5 percent tax on individuals with gross income of more than $500,000 and couples with income more than $1 million.

The provision was offset to appease the Blue Dog Coalition, which threatened to derail the package. The fate of such a tax increase in the Senate is unclear. The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up its version of the supplemental Thursday.

That amendment also includes an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, which is expected to cost $11 billion over 10 years and will not be offset. That amendment is expected to be approved with mostly Democratic votes and some Republican support. Democratic leaders ran into last-minute anxiety from some Blue Dogs, including Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., over the nonbinding withdrawal timetable in the war-policy portion of the package.

Democratic leadership sources categorized the whipping as little more than an 11th-hour cleanup effort that would not jeopardize House approval of the provisions.

"It's nothing I didn't expect," said Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. "I think we are all right." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Thursday expressed pride in the House's efforts to change war policy and placed the blame for their failure to get enacted on President Bush and Senate Republicans.

"We've done our share here, but the president refuses to listen to the American people and the Republicans in the Senate are complicit in that," Pelosi said.

During debate on the House floor, Republicans railed against Democratic leaders over the process, which bypassed the House Appropriations Committee, because of prohibited amendments and motions to recommit. Republicans also said that the true cost of the bill is $250 billion, including the domestic spending. "This is not the 'House of the Few Great Deciders.' " House Appropriations Committee ranking member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said. "It is the 'People's House.' It is the House of Representatives. We fail to recognize this at our great peril."