Iraq Cash in Limbo
Bill May Slip to Next Year
House and Senate Democratic leaders insisted Wednesday that no final decision has been made on the timing of the next supplemental spending bill to fund the Iraq War, one day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told liberal lawmakers that the measure is not likely to reach the House floor until 2008.
“While there has been discussion, there is no decision on that,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said of the supplemental’s timing.
A Pelosi spokesman similarly declined to discuss the meeting, other than to say that no decision has been finalized.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Out of Iraq Caucus, attended Tuesday’s meeting with Pelosi along with Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the co-chairwomen of the Progressive Caucus, and said the Members were told that the bill “probably won’t come up until January.”
“What we discussed was everybody working to make our troops as safe as possible,” Waters added of the Iraq-focused meeting.
But across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) spokesman Jim Manley said House and Senate leaders have not agreed to delay war funding until next year.
“No decisions have been made about the timing of the supplemental,” Manley said. He added, “Regardless of when we act, we will make sure our troops have what they need.”
A spokesman for Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), also said there “haven’t been any negotiations” on timing.
“How can you plan to move a bill or request that you don’t have?” spokesman Jesse Jacobs said, noting that the administration has repeatedly asked for more time to formulate their request.
Despite the lack of a specific request for more money, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace appeared before the Senate Appropriations panel Wednesday to talk about the $42 billion they want added to the roughly $150 billion they’ve already asked for in supplemental war funding.
Gates is “outlining it but [the White House] doesn’t have a request. It doesn’t make sense,” Jacobs said.
He added that Senate appropriators still do not know when the administration will send the official supplemental request to Congress.
Of course, the Senate traditionally waits for the House to act on appropriations bills, because the House is required to act first on revenue measures. The House had been expected to act on the supplemental in September, which now appears all but impossible.
Even if lawmakers decide to hold off consideration of the spending bill until January or later, Democratic sources said it should not impact military operations in Iraq, asserting that funding from the fiscal 2007 continuing resolution will provide sufficient funds, pending the completion of the fiscal 2008 spending bills. The CR, approved by the House on Wednesday and expected to reach the Senate floor this week, funds the Defense Department at 2007 levels including an allowance for military involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan based on a $70 billion bridge fund approved in 2006.
In the meantime, liberal House Democratic lawmakers in the Progressive Caucus renewed their opposition to continuing the war Wednesday, issuing a policy paper stating that Members will oppose any Iraq-related legislation that does not include a specific timeline and deadline for the redeployment of military troops and contractors.
The document, which characterizes the conflict as “grave and rapidly deteriorating,” also calls for the return of all U.S. troops and contractors within a six-month period.
“As progressives, we are keeping faith with our constituents and a clear majority of the American people who want to end President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq and bring our troops home,” Lee said in a statement.
The Progressive Caucus also is expected to re-issue a letter its membership, along with Republican Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), sent to President Bush in July vowing to vote down any additional Iraq funds.
The new letter is expected to have at least a dozen additional signatures, bringing the number of Members to more than 80, and including at least one moderate freshman in addition to progressive lawmakers.
“I want this over now,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said Wednesday. “We need to organize and get people to vote the way we need them to vote.”
Nonetheless, many rank-and-file liberal lawmakers did vote in favor of the continuing resolution Wednesday — the measure passed 404-14 — despite the bill’s inclusion of an additional $5.2 billion for mine resistant tanks. But one Democratic aide suggested that measure is “not a fair test,” and lawmakers will band together when the supplemental bill comes to the House floor.
Emily Pierce contributed to this report.