Democrats Offer To Drop Kids’ Insurance From War Spending Bill
Congressional leaders and White House officials on Friday failed to reach an agreement on a fiscal year 2007 supplemental appropriations bill (HR 2206) for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Kemper, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/19).
During a meeting with White House officials on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey (D-Wis.) offered to remove all funds for domestic programs, including the State Children's Health Insurance Program, from the bill.
In exchange, they asked to "keep benchmarks, unit readiness requirements and timelines for troop redeployment in the bill, but all subject to waiver by the president," CongressDaily reports.
White House officials rejected the offer (Cohn, CongressDaily, 5/18).
The House on May 10 voted 221-205 to approve a $124.2 billion version of the bill that includes funds for SCHIP, health care for veterans and flu pandemic preparedness. The legislation exceeds the amount that President Bush has requested by $21 billion.
The Senate on Thursday voted 94-1 to approve a "placeholder" bill that includes no funds to allow negotiations on a final version of the legislation to begin.
President Bush on May 1 vetoed an earlier version of the bill because of opposition to provisions that called for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq by March 2008, as well as the inclusion of funds for nonmilitary programs. The House on May 2 failed to override the veto (California Healthline, 5/18).
After the meeting on Friday, congressional leaders reiterated their plan to reach an agreement on the bill before the Memorial Day recess (Cohn, CongressDaily, 5/18).
Reid said, "To say I was disappointed in the meeting is an understatement. I expected -- I really did expect that the president would accept some accountability for what we're trying to accomplish here" (Higa/Starks, CQ Today, 5/18).
Pelosi said, "The president said he wanted a clean bill, so we said, 'OK.' And what happened is of course the domestic funding was only an excuse for the president not to sign the bill. It wasn't the reason. The reason he didn't sign the bill is he did not want to have any accountability."
White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten said, "Whether waivable or not, timelines send exactly the wrong signal to our adversaries, to our allies and, most importantly, to the troops in the field."
However, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman said that he was "encouraged" by the offer to remove all funds for domestic programs from the bill (CongressDaily, 5/18).