Money for Health Programs Caught in War Funding Bills
President Bush on Monday issued a formal veto threat to a $124 billion House supplemental appropriations bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that includes funds for a number of health care programs, the Washington Post reports (Weisman, Washington Post, 3/20).
The bill, which the House Appropriations Committee approved last week, includes $3.5 billion more than Bush requested for Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs health care programs, as well as $1 billion for avian flu preparedness. The bill also would provide $750 million for SCHIP (American Health Line, 3/16).
The legislation overall exceeded the amount that Bush requested by about $21 billion, with almost half of the additional funds allocated for nonmilitary programs. The bill also includes provisions that would establish a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Bush in a statement said that Congress has "a responsibility to pass a clean bill that does not use funding for our troops as leverage to get special-interest spending for their districts," adding, "They have a responsibility to get this bill to my desk without strings and without delay" (Miller, Washington Times, 3/20).
The full House plans to vote on the bill on Thursday, and Democrats are "struggling" to find support for the legislation, the Post reports (Washington Post, 3/20).
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Monday in a speech in Washington, D.C., said, "It is time that the Congress of the United States does not simply rubber-stamp the president's request" (CQ Today, 3/19).
Hoyer spokesperson Stacey Bernards said, "We are responding to needs that last Republican majority ignored, such as funding for children's health care that was requested by Republican and Democratic governors."
However, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said that some of the funds included in the bill are unnecessary. He said, "The real emergency Democrats must have is the emergency of selling votes to get this thing passed" (Washington Times, 3/20).