Will Iraq Bill Be Signed by July 4th?
Nearly one month after the House passed its version of the supplemental spending bill to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and three weeks after the Senate approved its plan, Democratic leaders are sounding dissonant notes on whether they can get a final package signed by President Bush before the next congressional recess.
After an initial process that involved partisan disputes, tactical maneuvering by the House GOP and veto threats from the White House, negotiations have moved in to a more conciliatory stage. Key Democrats are now in intense talks with the Bush administration about finding a compromise, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed confidence today that a consensus measure would be ready for Bush's signature before the next break, which begins June 27th.
"I have made clear to the White House ... that we want to pass a bill that will be signed by the president, and that will happen before we leave for the 4th of July," Pelosi said. "I feel confident that will happen."
Pelosi later reiterated that point, saying, "We don't have that much time left. There are two and a half weeks left until the recess, and we will have a bill sent to the president by then, and it will have to be a bill that will pass in the House and the Senate."
But little more than an hour after Pelosi made her remarks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said there was little urgency for a July 4th deadline because the Pentagon has enough money to cover the cost of wars for another six weeks or so.
"They have enough money till the end of July, so we're not really that panicked about it," Reid said.
Complicating matters is the decision by House Democrats to strip an extension of unemployment benefits out of the supplemental package and pass it as a separate bill. That measure failed to pass the House Wednesday under a procedure that required a two-thirds majority, but it is back on the floor today under regular order and is expected to pass easily.
But Reid dismissed the idea of taking up unemployment insurance as a separate bill, saying that he would ask for Senate Republicans to grant unanimous consent to move to the bill considering few or no amendments. Reid fully expects them to object, so he told reporters "I'm not wasting" the Senate's time by spending a week or more of parliamentary effort on a stand-alone unemployment bill.
Reid outlined a process under which the House would send over a new version of the supplemental package, which would include $165 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan as well as a new G.I. Bill for veterans education. Then the Senate would add back the unemployment insurance and ship the bill back to the House, and the two chambers would "ping-pong" the measure, possibly into July.
Pelosi, however, seems more inclined to reach a global agreement between House Democrats, Senate Democrats and the White House and then have that deal approved by both chambers, without bouncing bills back and forth across the Capitol. That leaves the path ahead -- and prospects for timely final passage -- unclear.
House Republicans, for their part, have not been included in the current negotiations between the White House and Democrats, and are frustrated by the delays.
"We could have cut this deal in five minutes, and unfortunately ... I don't know what happened," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today. "I think it's time for the Democrats to get their act together."
June 12, 2008; 2:09 PM ET
Categories: Iraq , Purse Strings
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