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House Democrats to Bring Supplemental Directly to Floor on Thursday

House Democratic leaders will bypass a committee markup and bring the war supplemental bill straight to the floor on Thursday, with lawmakers being warned to expect “possible late votes” that night on multiple items in the package.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said the House will hold votes on three key issues in the supplemental during this week’s debate.

The first vote will be to approve an estimated $178 billion for troop funding into 2009.

Hoyer predicted Democrats would approve the funding, although there “will be differences on that issue.”

The second vote will relate to changing the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, modifying redeployment terms, lengths of stay and the “status-of-forces agreement” between Iraq and the United States, which defines the legal position of a visiting military force.

President Bush is seeking to put such an agreement into place without Congressional approval, which Hoyer said is not “appropriate” and that lawmakers should expect to “see something about that.”

The third vote will relate to domestic spending add-ons sought by Democrats, including expanded college tuition assistance for veterans and extended unemployment insurance coverage.

Emerging from a Democratic Caucus meeting on Tuesday afternoon, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) told reporters that the supplemental actually comes in under the president’s request by $87 million. Democrats plan to use the additional money for domestic spending items.

Murtha indicated that the enhanced GI benefits and unemployment insurance will not be offset in the bill. However, some domestic spending items requested by the president, such as fire-suppression dollars, will be offset, he said.

In an effort to stick to House pay-as-you-go rules, Hoyer noted that the enhanced GI benefits will expire at the end of 2009. “Doing it this way does not raise the PAYGO objection,” he said, while at the same time it provides short-term help to those who “need it right now.”

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