After a flurry of last-minute number changes, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) unveiled a three-step process Tuesday for the Houseconsideration of an emergency $183.7 billion wartime spending bill, possibly as early as this week.
Obey stressed that with the exception of unemployment insurance and veterans' benefits, the bill will not exceed the President's funding request. Obey said Democrats pared $3.4 billion from the bill in order to attach additional priorities and still comply with the president's overall cap.
The second vote will be on whether to impose a set of conditions on the war funding. These will include proposals that would limit the length of deployment of U.S. soldiers, prevent a permanent status of forces agreement with Iraq and limit interrogation techniques used on detainees. The second vote will also contain a measure forcing the Iraqi government to accept a greater responsibility for the cost of reconstruction.
The third vote would focus on largely domestic concerns, although it will also include $500 million more than the president's request for food aid overseas, Obey said. Apart from unemployment insurance and the expanded GI bill, an estimated $3.2 billion would be provided for military base construction projects and hospitals, and the bill would also advance about $5.8 billion for levee construction in Louisiana.
This new strategy is a cousin of most of the other failed strategies the Democrats have tried. Bush will veto any spending bill that includes any timetable for withdrawal and furthermore such a spending bill would likely never get through the Senate.
The Democrats will likely get some or all of the domestic spending proposals in though of course they have little to do with funding the wars. This is a repackaged version of the strategy they employed last May. The Democrats wound up blinking and gave into the President then. I am willing to bet the same thing will happen again.