House Passes War Spending as a Work in Progress

Posted July 1, 2010 at 10:13pm

Congressional Democrats aren’t sending a war spending bill to President Barack Obama by July Fourth as they had hoped.

House Members passed the bill as their last order of business late Thursday before leaving town for roughly 10 days. But a bevy of changes that they made to the measure — including adding $10 billion to stem teacher layoffs — means the bill will have to go back to the Senate after the July Fourth recess before it can go to Obama for his signature. The Senate wrapped up its business before the recess on Wednesday night.

House Republicans, most of whom voted against the bill to protest the domestic spending included in it, complained that Democrats should have dropped the changes and taken up a Senate-passed version to expedite the release of the war money. Lawmakers adopted the domestic spending changes, 239-182.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday morning at her weekly news conference that she was confident that the delay in finalizing the supplemental would not adversely affect military operations.

“Whatever actions we take, our men and women in uniform on the ground will not be lacking in what they need,” she said.

A Pelosi spokesman said the Speaker had received private assurances from the Defense Department that it would not have to curtail any operations if the war money was not available until after the recess. Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified last month that the military would have to begin planning to curtail defense operations if the supplemental was not enacted by July Fourth.

The White House complicated matters Thursday night by threatening a veto over the inclusion of an $800 million cut to education reform programs. House Democrats want to redirect the money toward a $16 billion package of domestic spending that was added to the bill, including the money to avert teacher layoffs.

Obama’s Race to the Top education program would lose $500 million under the cut. The program, established in last year’s economic stimulus bill, provides competitive grants to states to pursue innovative approaches to education reform.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said his chamber would look for alternative funding sources to offset the teacher money.

In addition to the war spending, the House-passed supplemental includes money for border security, oil spill cleanup efforts, Pell Grants, and disaster relief in the United States and Haiti.

The House also narrowly adopted a one-year “budget enforcement” resolution that has drawn ire from Republicans, who accuse Democrats of fiscal irresponsibility for failing to adopt a budget. GOP lawmakers booed and shouted “no” when the 215-210 budget vote tally was announced.

Before passing the bill, lawmakers defeated an amendment that liberals had insisted on to strip out the war money, which funds Obama’s $33 billion request to pay for an escalation of troops in Afghanistan. They also rejected two troop withdrawal amendments.

The House is slated to reconvene July 13.