House Democrats plan to include unemployment insurance in the $250 billion war supplemental this week, setting up a potential showdown with the White House and House Republicans, according to Democratic aides.
House Democratic leaders moved forward separately with unemployment benefits last week in hope of avoiding a veto on the war bill.
Democrats had counted on quickly passing the $16 billion unemployment benefits extension in both chambers and overriding a threatened veto, but House Republicans showed they had the votes to sustain a veto, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) showed little interest in pushing for a separate bill in the face of GOP objections. Reid warned his House counterparts last week that he planned to add unemployment to the war bill when it came over to the Senate regardless.
The decision by House Democrats puts Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Reid on the same page, and sets up high-stakes brinkmanship with the White House, which has repeatedly threatened vetoes of what it considers unnecessary domestic spending.
House Republicans would face a difficult vote on a politically potent combination of unemployment and GI benefits with no offsets, and Democrats are wondering whether Bush would veto such a bill because of the potential collateral damage to Republicans.
A House Republican leadership aide ripped Democrats for again attempting to jam unemployment insurance into the supplemental over GOP objections.
This is déjà vu all over again this version is strikingly similar to the bill that the House already passed a month ago, said Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). And this will be the third time that we take up unemployment insurance. It would be nice if the Democrats actually did some real legislating for a change.
House Democratic leaders also must deal with Blue Dog Democrats who want offsets to comply with pay-as-you-go rules. But Blue Dogs will be in a tough position having to choose between trying to get funding to the troops before the July Fourth recess and fighting a PAYGO battle they appear destined to lose.
Assuming Blue Dogs can be tamed, any effort to override the president on the war bill would be greatly complicated in the House because many anti-war Democrats have vowed to oppose any war funding that is not tied to withdrawal timelines. Those Members would be in the difficult position of choosing to back Bush and his veto or an override on a war funding bill.
Emily Pierce contributed to this report.