Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has executed an aggressive push to keep Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee in line as the panel takes up the $124 billion Iraq War spending bill this morning, while Democratic leaders prepare to whip the full Caucus next week.
“This is an unprecedented effort,” one Democratic member of the Appropriations Committee said of recent meetings convened by Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense.
“She’s doing her job to get that bill passed.” the lawmaker added. The measure is scheduled to be marked up in the full Appropriations Committee this morning. “We’re not going to get every vote, but we’ll get it out of committee.”
According to several committee members, Pelosi has implored Democrats to produce a clean bill.
“If we want to move forward ... then we have to stay together as a team,” Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said of the Speaker’s Tuesday meeting with appropriators. “The stronger it comes out of Appropriations, the better it will be.”
Several lawmakers stated, however, that no House leader has instructed Members to refrain from introducing amendments, or even to oppose the numerous amendments expected from Republicans, including measures that could remove significant portions of the bill, such as a specific withdrawal date from Iraq.
“No one has said ‘do not offer this’ or ‘do not offer that,’” said Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), who sits on the Appropriations panel and stated that she does not plan to propose any amendments.
But one senior Democratic aide, who asked not to be named, said the message in Pelosi’s recent efforts should be clear to lawmakers.
“We’ve spent a lot of time, we’ve had dozens of meetings ... and heard everyone’s ideas and perspectives. We’ve worked to craft a bill everyone can get behind,” the aide said.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said, “I don’t think the majority party is going to offer amendments.”
Republicans, meanwhile, are expected to offer numerous amendments of their own, including one from Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who said he will seek to strike a provision providing assistance to spinach farmers and will push to extend minimum-wage standards to tuna producers.
In addition, GOP lawmakers also may propose removing the “emergency” designation from other non-military, domestic spending items, which would require any increase in those funds to be balanced by reductions under “pay-as-you-go” guidelines.
The divisive and partisan debate over the supplemental funding bill has caused palpable tension on the clubby Appropriations Committee, a panel that has often forged bipartisan working relations in the past to fund the annual spending bills. “We’ve never seen this kind of division,” said Rep. David Hobson (Ohio), the seventh-ranking GOP lawmaker on the committee.
“Under different circumstances, [Defense subcommittee ranking member] Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Jack Murtha could come up with a bill we could all vote for,” Hobson said. “The White House may not like it, but we could do it.”
Another Republican member of the Appropriations panel, who asked not to be identified, asserted the committee process “has broken.”
“The committee, at the moment, has a partisan tone because Pelosi has told the Democrats they can’t work with us,” the lawmaker asserted.