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Supplemental Headed to Floor Thursday

The House will take up the long-anticipated war supplemental on Thursday and may consider contentious electronic spying legislation on Friday “if that’s ready to go,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday.

The House “could have passed a supplemental weeks ago,” Hoyer said, but lawmakers have been tied up in “a three-corner discussion” between the House, the Senate and the White House to craft a bill that could be signed into law.

Hoyer said the House will bring forward a supplemental that includes expanded GI benefits and an extension of unemployment insurance, along with a tax hike on wealthy couples to cover the 10-year, $52 billion cost of the veterans benefits.

The Senate stripped the tax increase from the supplemental the last time it was sent over from the House.

“I would hope that could be digested by the Senate” this time around, Hoyer said. But “it may be the case” that the two chambers will have to ping-pong the bill back and forth one more time before it hits the president’s desk.

The only item “outside the president’s number” for spending is the expanded GI benefits, Hoyer said.

The Majority Leader noted the irony of the president pushing to make veterans benefits transferable to military family members when such a move would add $10 billion to the cost of the bill.

The price tag of expanded GI benefits “goes from $52 billion to $62 billion at the president’s request,” Hoyer said.

This time around, the supplemental also will include emergency funding to address the recent flooding in Iowa.

As for legislation to update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Majority Leader said negotiators are closing in on a deal that will “not get everything we had in the House bill” but that will “accommodate the protection of civil liberties” in a broader way than in the Senate bill.

The bill also will provide for court review of FISA operations, he said.

The FISA bill has stalled for months over controversial immunity provisions aimed at shielding telecommunications companies from lawsuits relating to their aid to the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

Hoyer said he is pushing for a package that is “very substantially better than the Senate bill.”

On another front, Hoyer said the House will proceed to a veto override of the farm bill “pretty early” on Wednesday.

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