Pelosi Iraq Plan Starting to Take Shape

Posted April 24, 2008 at 12:30pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is “leaning toward” a three-pronged strategy to move the contentious Iraq War supplemental bill in the coming week or so.

That still-developing strategy involves advancing three separate legislative vehicles: one to exclusively provide emergency funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; another aimed at stimulating the economy through a mix of domestic spending measures; and potentially, a third that would advance some sort of language on troop withdrawals.

From there, Pelosi is hoping to work out a deal with Senate leaders and the White House that would involve passing a supplemental bill with only a handful of domestic spending items in it.

A senior House Democratic aide confirmed Thursday that this is “loosely” the plan being crafted behind closed doors between Pelosi and other Democratic leaders.

Such a strategy would at least theoretically address the conundrum faced by House leaders: how to pass a war spending bill when anti-war Democrats oppose any new funds without a change in Iraq policy. Further complicating matters, fiscally conservative Democrats could oppose a supplemental that is too heavily laden with domestic spending items and does not have to abide by pay-as-you-go budget rules.

Another problem is that the bill will ultimately require the support of some Republicans in order to make it to the president’s desk. President Bush has threatened to veto any measure that costs more than the $108 billion request for emergency war funding.

For weeks, House and Senate Democrats have been crafting a war bill that would cover not only war costs, but possibly offer an extension of unemployment benefits, increased food stamps spending, more money for wildfire protection and new funds for federal infrastructure projects.

Although Democratic leaders had eyed the joint bill as a way to pick up votes on the controversial spending bill, pressure has been mounting for them to separate the initiatives.

Members of the anti-war Out of Iraq Caucus sat down with Pelosi on Wednesday night to urge her to separate domestic dollars from the war-spending bill, the senior aide confirmed. They did not want to be seen as having to support the war in order to endorse popular domestic spending items.

Furthermore, the caucus endorsed a letter sent to Pelosi with House Republicans pledging to oppose a pork-laden supplemental.

“People shouldn’t have to choose between voting for food stamps for hungry people and for an occupation that is keeping our young men and women in harm’s way,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a co-founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus.

“The only money we should give for this president is for the protection of our troops and to provide for a safe and responsible redeployment.”

Lee acknowledged that the forthcoming spending bill may be the only spending legislation passed this year, but said she is “firmly grounded” to having the measures separated.

GOP Members, meanwhile, are opposing any add-ons to the bill because they worry it could slow down getting money to troops. Republicans, however, say they will not oppose the bill if it includes additional fiscal 2009 war spending that is currently pegged at $70 billion.

Over in the Senate, Democrats are in a position where they must have GOP approval or face a filibuster — in which case the majority would likely fail to garner the 60 votes needed to advance discussion on the bill.