Budget Still Tops the Agenda as War Seems Just Days Away

Posted March 18, 2003 at 12:55pm

Despite President Bush’s 48-hour ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Congress is moving forward with its week as planned.

In a prime-time speech Monday night, Bush warned Hussein that he has two days to leave Iraq or face armed conflict. But both chambers of Congress are continuing their work on budget resolutions that do not include any war funding.

The White House has yet to request anything definitive in terms of a supplemental appropriations measure needed to fund a war, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.

As the chamber continues to wrestle with the budget, Democrats will offer four alternatives if allowed, Hoyer said.

In addition to the Democratic alternative — which will include $500 billion for a Medicare prescription drug plan —the Congressional Black Caucus, the Progressive Caucus and the Blue Dogs are set to offer resolutions that highlight their priorities, Hoyer said.

Across the Capitol, the Senate took a break from its budget debate Tuesday for a third cloture vote on appellate court nominee Miguel Estrada. Once again, that vote failed.

The House, meanwhile, is set to take up bankruptcy-overhaul legislation again this week.

The bill has languished for years, coming within inches of enactment several times only to be vetoed by President Bill Clinton or derailed by the abortion debate.

In addition, the House is scheduled to reconsider Thursday a bill intended to give tax breaks to military personnel. Republican leaders pulled the measure from the floor earlier this month after lawmakers objected to numerous add-ons.

It remained unclear Tuesday whether all the troublesome provisions had been removed yet.

Neither chamber is expected to change course much if the United States invades Iraq this week.

The House is capable of focusing on domestic issues while keeping on top of the Iraq situation simultaneously, a DeLay spokesman said.

And a Senate leadership aide said that if war breaks out, the chamber would probably consider a resolution supporting the troops and set aside time to discuss it, but then continue with the budget.