Obey Outlines Supplemental Bill Soon to Hit House Floor

Posted May 7, 2008 at 4:20pm

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) on Wednesday provided an outline of the components to expect in the Iraq War supplemental bill set to hit the floor Thursday.

But in a late Wednesday press conference, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested that the measure may not hit the floor Thursday as anticipated. Pelosi indicated that GOP procedural tactics aimed at delaying the bill may succeed. But Pelosi said the House would “certainly” take up the bill by next week.

The Democratic proposal totals $183.7 billion, just under the president’s request for $188 billion.

It also includes two initiatives not requested by the president: an expanded GI bill to provide improved education benefits for veterans, and a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits.

The proposal will be taken up as three amendments, with Democratic leaders using last year’s never-enacted military construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill as the vehicle for moving the package.

The first amendment will seek $162.5 billion for the Defense Department, funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the summer of 2009.

Specifically, the amendment will call for $96.6 billion for fiscal 2008, which is $3.4 billion below the president’s request. It will also call for $65.9 billion for fiscal 2009, which is $79 million below the president’s request.

In total, this funding accounts for almost 90 percent of the discretionary spending in the bill.

The second amendment will outline a series of Iraq policy restrictions, including a requirement that troops begin redeployment from Iraq within 30 days, with a goal of completing the withdrawal by December 2009.

Other provisions will include requirements that any agreement between the United States and the government of Iraq committing U.S. forces to Iraq be authorized by Congress; that U.S. reconstruction aid for Iraq be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Iraqi government; and that the president reach an agreement with Iraq to subsidize fuel costs for U.S. military forces operating in Iraq so that the U.S. military pays what Iraqis pay for fuel.

The policy amendment will also seek to alter troop deployment times, clean up contracting in Iraq, a ban on permanent bases in Iraq and bar the torture of detainees.

The third amendment will attach expanded GI benefits and an unemployment insurance extension to the bill, the costs of which will not be offset.

Offset items will include $5.9 billion for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development; $1.8 billion for international food and disaster assistance; $675 million to address the refugee crisis in Iraq; $4.6 billion for military construction; $5.8 billion to strengthen New Orleans levees; $178 million to meet rising incarceration costs; and $210 million to address decennial census cost overruns.