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Hoyer Says House Will Likely Nix Unemployment Benefits in War Bill

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday that the House is likely to send a war supplemental bill back to the Senate that contains “less spending” and that nixes a proposed extension of unemployment insurance benefits.

Hoyer said he is still hoping to bring up the supplemental by Friday, but that it may slip until next week. He said to expect two votes on the floor: one to approve roughly $170 billion to continue funding Iraq and Afghanistan operations into 2009, and one to pass the domestic spending portion of the bill.

The Senate sent over “a more generous package than we did,” said the Majority Leader, but House Democrats “have concerns about not paying for things.”

This means that the House will probably change the Senate bill by stripping out the insurance benefits but leaving in a provision to expand GI benefits, Hoyer said.

The proposed 13-week extension of insurance benefits may be attached to “other vehicles” down the road, noted Hoyer, referring to a second economic stimulus package that Democrats have been eyeing for the summer.

Meanwhile, House Democrats have argued that the inclusion of expanded GI benefits in the supplemental does not need to abide by their chamber’s revenue-neutral, pay-as-you-go rules because it is related to the costs of war.

“It is obvious to me that the Senate has no intention or ability to fund” offsets in the war spending bill, Hoyer said. House leaders will not “hold our veterans hostage to a Senate that won’t pay for things,” meaning that they won’t include a politically controversial offset that would raise taxes on wealthy couples to pay for additional domestic spending.

The Majority Leader said he doesn’t expect any of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats to ultimately oppose the war spending bill because of PAYGO concerns.

On other spending matters, the Majority Leader said he hopes to start moving the first of the fiscal 2009 appropriations bills by the end of June.

However, he conceded that it “may be problematic” to try to get all 12 of the annual spending bills to the president’s desk by the end of the year.

For one thing, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated that he “may not have the ability” to get the appropriations bills through the Senate, Hoyer said.

In addition, the president is likely to threaten vetoes against those measures.

“So what we’re doing is playing politics. This is not substantive,” the Maryland Democrat said.

The likely outcome is that lawmakers will “do something to fund the government” in the meantime, added Hoyer, meaning approve another continuing resolution through the November elections.

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