Defying President Bush, House Democrats are preparing to forge ahead with a war spending measure that would include extended unemployment assistance and new educational benefits for returning veterans.
After a meeting Monday evening of House Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped to bring a $178 billion measure to the floor this week. What could be a contentious debate on the matter is likely to be held on Thursday, aides said.
Ms. Pelosi, of California, did not disclose details of the proposed bill, which will be presented to rank-and-file Democrats at a closed party session on Tuesday. But Democratic officials, who did not want to be identified since the bill was still being put into final form, said the legislative package would include provisions requiring a significant withdrawal of troops from Iraq by December 2009 and measures that would force Iraq to share more costs of its reconstruction.
Democrats also intend to make veterans eligible for new educational assistance if they have served from three months to three years or more on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. The aid would be equivalent to a four-year scholarship at a public university for those with three years or more service, with payments prorated for those with less time.
Mr. Bush has steadily insisted he would not approve any legislation that exceeds his spending request for the war, sets any withdrawal deadlines or adds domestic money he opposes like the unemployment benefits. And House Republicans, angry that the measure is not going through formal committee consideration, began on Monday to open procedural attacks on the House floor in protest, forcing extra votes on noncontroversial measures.
“The Democrat leaders of the House and Senate are attempting to jam a 200-plus-billion-dollar spending bill through the Congress with absolutely no oversight or scrutiny by a vast majority of members, senators or their constituents,” Representative Jerry Lewis of California, the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said in a statement on Monday. “Never in my 30 years in Congress has there been such an abuse of the processes and rules of the House.”
Democrats said privately that they expected the provisions setting a withdrawal deadline and putting other conditions on the war money to be eliminated by the Senate before a final House vote later this spring… [emphasis added]
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Of course there is no way this bill can ever get through the automatic GOP filibuster in the Senate. Nevertheless it’s still a good idea, because it gives GOP Senators a choice to actually do something for America or come down solidly against the unemployed and veterans in the height of election season.
Representative Jerry Lewis needs help for his comedy routine from his side-kick, Dean Martin. Throughout the GOP dominated 109th, no bill made it to committee without having first been approved by a majority of the House Repuglicans.
Think how much better it would have been if the Democratic majority in the House had wasted time with impeachment hearings instead of with posturing!