Iraq Bill Expected Out Today

Posted March 7, 2007 at 6:47pm

Following extensive negotiations with their own warring internal factions, Democratic leaders suggested they will unveil the $100 billion-plus Iraq War spending bill today, even as they remained largely silent about the document’s details.

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said Wednesday that the majority could formally reveal details of the spending bill today, adding that leaders would address the full Democratic Caucus before making any public statement.

“I think we’re getting close. We will continue to sound out every body in the Caucus we can reach,” Obey said. Acknowledging that he has made similar suggestions earlier in the week, Obey added in a subsequent interview: “I feel much better about tomorrow than I did yesterday.”

Echoing that confidence, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, asserted the measure will be distributed to members of the full committee Thursday.

“It’s going to the printer tonight,” Murtha said Wednesday afternoon. “Tomorrow morning it will be available to be distributed,” though he acknowledged that negotiations are ongoing over the document and added, “It doesn’t mean it will be.”

In addition, House Democratic leaders said the measure, expected to put conditions on the president’s use of the funds as well as money for items including veterans’ care, likely will be marked up in full committee next week.

“That would be my expectation,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) confirmed following a Wednesday afternoon leadership meeting on the proposal.

Others leaders, including Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.), asserted the Democrats were making “progress” on the details of the measure, but remained otherwise tight-lipped following the meeting.

The Democratic Caucus is scheduled to meet this morning to discuss the spending bill, in a joint meeting with the Democratic Whip organization.

Internal divisions within the majority have slowed progress on the measure as Democratic leaders have sought to balance the demands of more conservative members with those of the party’s progressive, anti-war faction.

But Obey said he laid blame for much of that divisiveness on “leaks” about the bill, criticizing those lawmakers who have provided information to the media before the details have been finalized.

“Our primary problem has been that Members don’t know what’s in it,” Obey said of the spending bill. Those admissions, he added, have prompted unnecessary arguments within the Caucus: “Then [Members are] reacting to something that really isn’t on the table.”

In an effort to battle those disclosures, Obey acknowledged that he recently disseminated false information during a closed-door meeting on the spending bill in an effort to identify the source of the leaks.

On Tuesday, “when I read the paper I figured out who two of those people were,” Obey added, although he declined to identify the lawmakers, including whether they are members of the Appropriations panel. He also refused to discuss the false information that he provided. Those individuals “will not be invited to further meetings,” he added.

Another Appropriations panel member expressed surprise at the action, stating she was unaware of any leaked information. “What’s there to leak? There’s nothing written,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).

In the meantime, the Progressive Caucus, which has sought language in the supplemental requiring the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq, is slated to unveil its proposal this morning to fund such an effort.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) described the measure Wednesday as a “fully funded withdrawal.”

“The press and a lot of people have continually misrepresented what people are doing here. This is not cutting off funds,” Nadler said. “We want to provide the funds, but we want to limit the use of the funds.”

Under the proposal, both existing and future funds could be used for troop withdrawal and economic reconstruction in Iraq, but could not be used to further the war effort, Nadler explained.

“We’re not cutting the funds by a nickel,” he added. While Nadler said the Progressive Caucus would like to see the language included in the supplemental bill itself, lawmakers likely will have to offer the measure as an amendment to the spending bill.

While the proposal will call for the withdrawal to be completed by the end of 2007, Nadler said that date could be changed. “Obviously we’d be willing to talk,” he said.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), a co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, acknowledged Wednesday that the group also has begun actively whipping lawmakers on whether they will support the supplemental as well as the likely amendment.

“If everybody’s going to vote for the supplemental [as is], we’re just wasting our time,” Woolsey said of the reasoning behind the vote count. Although she declined to give out specific numbers, she added: “We’ve already determined we’re not wasting our time.”

In addition to funding the war, Murtha indicated the supplemental spending bill will contain significant funds for domestic spending.

“There’s things in this I think will surprise people,” Murtha asserted, alluding to one particular addition to the bill, which he said would be a domestic spending item, but otherwise declined to detail. “It’s going to be big.”

In response to Murtha’s nebulous assertion, Obey stated: “There are other things in this bill besides Iraq. … There are legitimate domestic needs.”

Democrats already have said that they were planning to include money to improve conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. They also have considered adding recovery funds for Hurricane Katrina and for farm disaster aid.

Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters Wednesday that he expected Republicans to stay unified in opposition against any supplemental that puts conditions on President Bush. “I would not expect us to lose any more Members than we lost on that original debate on Iraq, which was 17,” he said, in reference to the Iraq resolution on the floor in February. “I think give or take one or two, that is the sort of framework we are in.”

House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.) refuted the idea that Republicans are taking a political risk by potentially voting down a spending bill to provide funds to troops in combat.

“We could vote for a clear wartime supplemental before supper tomorrow,” he said. “The reason why this is so complicated is because the Democrats are making it complicated to pacify the third of their Caucus who wants to immediately cut off funds to the troops, the third of their Caucus who would like to cut off funds for the troops but don’t want credit for it, and the third of their Caucus that ran as Republicans and are running away from the other two-thirds of their colleagues.”

Susan Davis contributed to this report.