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Beyond aiding the troubled auto industry, House Democratic leaders also may be lining up a vote on food stamps and state Medicaid assistance during next week’s lame-duck session.

It is “possible” that the House will take up a short-term stimulus measure focused solely on food stamps and Medicaid assistance to states, a senior Democratic aide said Thursday.

The lame-duck session itself remains in limbo, however, as Democratic leaders gauge whether they have the votes to pass some kind of auto industry rescue package. Either way, the Senate is poised to gavel in on Monday; the House is still undecided.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled Thursday that food stamps and state Medicaid assistance remain on her radar.

In light of new Labor Department figures showing a dramatic spike in the number of people who are drawing unemployment benefits, Pelosi called on President Bush to “at a minimum … support providing emergency food assistance and aid to states to maintain health care coverage for millions of Americans this holiday season.”

The House already passed a $61 billion stimulus package in September focused on food stamps, state Medicaid assistance, unemployment insurance and infrastructure investments. But the measure stalled in the face of opposition from Senate Republicans and Bush.

This time, Pelosi may look to advance the food stamp and Medicaid assistance as separate measures. Democrats were successful in convincing Bush to sign a stand-alone unemployment insurance bill into law during last month’s lame-duck session. But Pelosi’s top priority, infrastructure aid, appears to be a no-go for Republicans.

“I always am hopeful of that infrastructure,” Pelosi said. “But that one may have to wait until January.”

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