Speedbumps sighted in war funding

Democratic leaders in the Senate consider adding the budget blueprint to a $59 billion dollar emergency spending package winding through Congress. But things ar...

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

The Senate is working on a $59 billion dollar supplemental spending package that could also include the next fiscal year’s budget blueprint. That according to Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, cited in Congress Daily. The current bill includes more than $30 billion dollars for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and about $70 million for the oil spill cleanup.

While that bit of business is fairly straight forward, according to Congressional Expert Jodi Schneider, who’s also a Senior Editor in the Washington Bureau of the American Banker, what came next may gum up the works.

What gets interesting next is what we call “the riders” or the hitchhikers that they want to add to this. Just after the bill was approved in the committee, the White House through Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter of support for some money for teachers. He asked that money, including two billion for first responders and a billion for early childhood education jobs, be added to this bill.

The problem, explained Schneider, is that Republicans “who don’t want to add on things that the Administration asks for just because they ask is objecting to this.”

Schneider said adding earmarks to a supplemental spending bill “happens a lot of the time” because they move quickly and can produce fast results. “But this is a little tricky,” she explained, “because it came after the committee and now they’re stalling” the bill from going to the Senate floor.

Meanwhile, another “impediment” to the bill moving forward is the job creation aspect. Negotiations are going on now, Schneider said, “on a deal to have a scaled back package of tax cuts and spending that will stimulate jobs. Of course this is a huge issue in a congressional election year and the White House really wants to be all about job creation. That may move before this package.”

There’s a bit of time pressure on this package, said Schneider, “with the supplemental bill for wars, Memorial Day is obviously a symbolic deadline, so this may move before then. It all gets complicated. As soon as you start adding on things, particularly things that don’t have a lot to do with the core bill, then you can get objections from the other party and you have to start making a lot more deals and it slows down the process.”

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