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House to Consider Budget, Energy Tax Breaks

House leaders plan to push through major legislation in the final days leading up to the Memorial Day recess, although their goal of passing a war spending bill before the holiday appears to have slipped.

Bills on tap in the House for the week of May 19 include the fiscal 2009 budget conference report, tax-extender energy legislation and the fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill. All three measures are set for a Rules Committee hearing on Tuesday evening.

Other conference reports also may become available for House action, including consumer product-safety and higher education bills.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders are planning to roll out an energy plan of their own on Wednesday, in part to pitch alternative proposals for bringing down the cost of gas and in part to lay into Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for not unveiling a comprehensive energy plan.

The GOP energy proposal seeks an increased reliance on natural gas and coal production, more nuclear power plants, expanded construction of oil refineries and conservation tax breaks.

A senior House GOP aide said Republicans also will spend the week “continuing to try to get a troop supplemental to the president’s desk by the Memorial Day deadline.”

But Republicans played a large role in bringing down the war spending bill when it hit the floor on Thursday.

By a vote of 141 to 149, and with 132 Republicans voting “present,” lawmakers rejected a measure to provide $162.5 billion in emergency spending for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This included $96.6 billion for fiscal 2008 and $65.9 billion for part of fiscal 2009.

Republicans favor continued funding for the war but voted otherwise in protest of the way the bill was crafted behind closed doors and because it was tied to unrelated domestic spending items.

For now, the House awaits Senate action on the supplemental before taking another stab at it.

“It’s certainly a possibility” that Republicans may try to use procedural tactics to bring up clean troop funding legislation introduced by Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the aide said.

House GOP leaders are meeting Monday morning to hash out a strategy for the week. But after a stinging defeat in the Mississippi special election last Tuesday, they vowed to employ more aggressive procedural tactics on the floor in order to defy Democrats.

Despite repeatedly citing Memorial Day as the deadline for sending the supplemental to President Bush, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday changed his tune, stating that the real deadline is “probably the 15th of June or somewhere in that nature.”

Democratic leaders would “like to pass it by Memorial Day” in order to avoid sending notices to soldiers and Defense Department employees indicating that they will soon stop receiving paychecks, he said.

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