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House Democrats’ Supplemental Includes Billions in Non-War Add-Ons

The supplemental spending bill that House Democrats unveiled today contains billions of dollars in add-ons, including $4.3 billion in agricultural disaster assistance and $1 billion for pandemic flu preparedness initiatives, though the total price tag is not yet known.

Other funding unrelated to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan include:

• $1.4 billion for military housing.

• $3.1 billion for carrying out ongoing base realignment and closure.

• $2.5 billion for the Homeland Security Department’s port and border security initiatives.

• $2.9 billion in additional Gulf Coast hurricane recovery aid.

• $735 million for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which is fully offset according to a press release by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.). The House Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the supplemental next week, followed by floor action the week of March 19th.

“We’re at stage one,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said this morning. “We have to pass the bill in the committee, on the floor of the House, go to the Senate.”

Indeed, assuming that Pelosi can shore up the votes to pass a supplemental containing provisions for redeploying troops from Iraq, the thin Senate margins for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Bush’s veto pen will undoubtedly play a significant part in the bill’s final outcome.

A veto threat emerged this afternoon aboard Air Force One. “Obviously, the administration would vehemently oppose and ultimately veto any legislation that looked like what was described today,” Dan Bartlett, counselor to President Bush, told reporters today. “Again, we don’t have all the details … but what we’re seeing here is an artificial, precipitous withdrawal from Iraq based on, unfortunately, politics in Washington — not on conditions on the ground in Baghdad, Iraq.”

Calling the Democrats’ proposal “failure at any cost,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) argued that the supplemental bill will slowly choke off resources for the troops. However, Boehner went on to voice his confidence that “Republicans and Democrats can work together … to get the funds to the troops in a timely manner.”

Earlier today, a spokesman for Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was asked if he intends to follow the House’s lead and include benchmarks for redeployment of U.S. troops in Iraq. The spokesman responded that he could not comment since the chairman had not yet reviewed the legislation, but he added that Byrd’s top priority “is to make sure that our men and women in service receive the resources that they need … and not become a windfall for government contractors.”

Senate appropriators will consider Byrd’s supplemental draft on March 20.

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