- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2008

Capitol Hill Republicans say they will unite to block Democratic efforts to attach billions of dollars for domestic programs onto a bill intended to supplement war spending efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan through September 2009.

House Democratic leaders unveiled Tuesday a $184 billion emergency funding package that includes more than $10 billion for unemployment benefits, a troop-withdrawal mandate and cuts about $3.5 billion from President Bush’s war-funding request.

The bill could hit the House floor as early as today.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise that congressional Democrats are once again trying to use a critical troop-funding bill to pass billions of dollars of unrelated government spending,” said House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican. “But what is a surprise is that they’d knowingly attempt to divert money away from our fighting men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to finance their reckless spending bonanza.”

During a meeting between congressional Republican leaders and President Bush yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told House Republicans that “I’ll stick with you” if they fought the Democratic-crafted bill, said a House Republican aide.

With 40 votes being sufficient to threaten filibusters and block contentious legislation in the Senate, the 49-member Republican caucus has been able to derail past Democratic efforts to limit the Iraq war.

President Bush has said he will veto any package that includes more than his overall $108 billion request — $100 billion of which would fund military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan through Sept. 30.

“I support a $108 billion supplemental without any strings … we’re going to work toward that goal,” said Mr. Bush yesterday after his meeting with House Republican leaders.

The war supplemental bill may be one of the last major spending bills Congress will consider this year, so Democrats used it as a vehicle to address what they said are vital domestic concerns.

“President Bush insists on war without end in Iraq, but Democrats in Congress stand with Americans who want to bring our troops home responsibly, safely and soon, and with taxpayers who believe that the Iraqi government must begin to pay its fair share for the reconstruction of their country,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

“Democrats are putting rebuilding America on par with the president’s priorities,” she said.

But House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said the Democrats’ plan would “play politics with critical troop funding,” which the Pentagon says will begin running out next month.

“Speaker Pelosi is using our troops as pawns in a political game to appease far-left, pro-surrender allies in the Democratic caucus,” Mr. Boehner said. “This is demeaning to our men and women in uniform, particularly at a time when they are putting their lives on the line to protect our freedom.”

The House package calls for $96.6 billion for the war effort through September — $3.4 billion less than the president’s request. And it would spend $65.9 billion for the 2009 fiscal year, which is $79 million less than requested by Mr. Bush.

The measure also includes a contentious provision to extend unemployment benefits nationwide by 13 weeks, and an additional 13 weeks in “high unemployment” states. Republicans call the provision unnecessary at a time of relatively low unemployment rates nationwide.

The bill also would provide educational benefits to veterans that would double the college-tuition assistance given to many veterans who served after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The measure also includes almost $6 billion to repair levees in Louisiana, almost $2 billion for global food aid and disaster assistance, $210 million to address census cost overruns and $178 million for prisons.

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