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Murtha Says Appropiations Process ‘Dead’

The top House Defense appropriator said Wednesday evening that as far as he’s concerned, the appropriations process is “dead” for the year.

“I think it’s dead. I don’t think we’ll even get a defense bill this year,” said Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.).

Until recently, Murtha said he thought the fiscal 2009 Defense spending bill had a 50-50 chance of clearing the House this year. But since Republicans have thrown a wrench into the process by trying to add contentious energy provisions to spending bills, “now I don’t see anything,” he said.

He later clarified that he sees a “slight chance of Defense being passed, but damn slight.” The bill is “not exactly ready,” he said, but could be ready for markup by July 16.

Murtha said Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) is hesitant to advance any spending bills given that during a recent markup, GOP appropriators tried to substitute the Interior spending bill for the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill in an effort to bring up unrelated drilling amendments.

“It set him off,” said Murtha.

On top of House delays, Murtha said none of the bills were likely to pass the Senate anyway, because Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) is “not well” and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) is recovering from brain cancer surgery.

Murtha said he expected a continuing resolution through February or March of 2009 to keep the government funded.

Defense Department spending could end up in the temporary spending measure, an option that Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Murtha could be “disastrous.”

But the House Defense appropriator said that decision will come down to whether Republicans “stop playing around” with the appropriations process.

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