Supplemental Request to Go to House Floor Next Week

Posted March 16, 2007 at 11:25am

House Members are set to vote on a $124 billion emergency supplemental bill next week after appropriators voted 36-28 on Thursday to bring the legislation to the floor.

Their version of the fiscal 2007 supplemental bill — $24 billion more than requested from the administration — adds billions of dollars to military troop and veterans’ healthcare coffers, would purchase force protection equipment for troops and improve the Defense Department “Strategic Reserve Readiness” levels, or ability to respond to another crisis.

While there were several points of contention between Democrats and Republicans over the bill, the primary one revolved around legislation that would require Iraq’s political system to make progress, or else troops would begin to be redeployed. Additionally, the bill said that the administration must begin to redeploy from Iraq by March 1 and be completed by August 2008.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, said this legislation would “tie the president’s hands,” and he urged Members not to pass the bill.

Additionally, he sponsored a bill that would strike the restrictive language and add language that saying the Congress will not cut off or restrict funding for units in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) then proposed to amended Lewis’ amendment by adding the restrictive language back in, and saying Congress will fully support the needs of units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lewis then sought to change Murtha’s amendment to his amendment to again strike the restrictive language. During roll call votes, committee members defeated Lewis’s second amendment, 27-37, and by the same tally approved Murtha’s amendment. The milestone and redeployment legislation stands.

Additionally, the House appropriators’ version of the supplemental provides $3.1 billion to fund Base Realignment and Closure this year. An en bloc amendment sponsored by Murtha and approved by a voice vote, however, would prohibit this money to be used to close Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Such a move could overturn the settled decision from the 2005 BRAC process and give dozens of lawmakers a chance to argue why facilities in their state or district should also remain open.

Murtha’s amendment, also added $750 million for State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Like the SCHIP measure, billions of dollars are sprinkled in the supplemental to support initiatives that are not related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such measures include:

• $500 million for suppressing wildlife fires;

• $400 million for low-income home energy assistance;

• $1 billion to prepare for a pandemic flu; and

• $3.7 billion for agricultural assistance.

Such padding was one of the Republicans’ main criticisms during the markup.

“No carrot should be big enough to go against principle,” Lewis said of members who might vote for the bill because of the pork added to it.

Regardless of Lewis’ warning, Republican’s introduced more than a dozen amendments, some seeking to tweak or reverse bill language, and others that had nothing to do with the wars.

For example, an amendment by Rep. Mark Kirk (R- Ill.), approved by voice vote, will raise American Samoa’s minimum wage. Kirk offered two other amendments — one to strike spinach producer funding in the bill and another to strip the bill of all funds that would not benefit the ongoing wars — both of which were defeated by voice votes.

Legislation proposed by Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), also defeated by voice vote, sought to add $16 million for the Capitol Police to modernize its radios.

On Thursday, the committee also shot down an amendment backed by Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) that would keep safety codes at chemical plants uniform.

An amendment by Rep. Roger Wicker (R- Miss.), approved by voice vote, would require that the Walter Reed recommendations of the Army’s Inspector General be implemented.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), sponsored an adopted amendment acknowledging that the president is the commander in chief. Another amendment approved by voice vote included one sponsored by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), which recognizes that the military commanders in the field are in control of their troops.

An amendment proposed by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), called the “New Diplomatic Offensive for Iraq and the Region” was approved. The legislation says the committee supports the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations and urges the president to pursue them aggressively.

Also on Thursday, committee members unanimously defeated a measure during a roll call vote sponsored by Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) that said no money in the bill could be spent directly or indirectly on U.S. military combat activities in Iraq.