House Democratic leaders on Tuesday struck a deal with fiscally conservative Members of their Caucus that paves the way for consideration of the war supplemental on Thursday while appeasing concerns about spiraling costs.
House leaders and Blue Dog Democrats agreed to keep enhanced GI benefits in the war spending bill a sticking point for fiscal conservatives who argued that they needed to be offset and to pay for them by tacking on a tax of one-half of 1 percent on the incomes of couples who earn more than $1 million annually.
This funding mechanism, dubbed the Patriot Tax Surcharge, would raise about $54 billion over 10 years. The GI bill would cost $52 billion over 10 years.
Blue Dogs came up with the idea and after agreeing to it, Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) pitched it to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who signed off on it Tuesday night.
A senior House Democratic aide said party leaders agreed because it offered a "simple, straightforward way to raise revenue. In addition, it reflected Democrats clear choice about priorities, the aide said.
The approach is unlikely to ever become law. President Bush is not likely to support it, and it also would have trouble getting 60 votes in the Senate. But it does allow Blue Dogs to argue that they would not let the supplemental to go through their chamber without funding the program.
House leaders were to pitch the proposal to the full Democratic Caucus in a meeting set for Tuesday night. The leadership aide speculated that there would be little opposition.
House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said all Republican members of the Appropriations Committee are expected to testify against the proposed rule on the supplemental when the Rules Committee meets on Wednesday.
In a move that reflects GOP frustration with the way Democrats have crafted the war spending bill behind closed doors, House Appropriations Committee ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) on Tuesday introduced a clean war spending bill.
"The Democrat leadership of the House has chosen to reward the service and patience of our men and women in uniform by loading up their funding legislation with unrelated spending and inappropriate war policy provisions," Lewis said.
"Contrary to the Democrat supplemental legislation, my bill will provide our troops with the resources they need without expensive add-ons designed to sway votes and provide political cover for anti-war Democrats."
Lewis' bill simply provides $178 billion for the Defense and State departments to conduct operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of fiscal 2008 and into fiscal 2009.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.