And now the supplemental spending bill to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan war is going to be vetoed and the Democrats damn well know it. Gives them more talking points in the current election cycle, troops be damned.
How did it get to this point? Blame Pelosi:
How did Congress get itself into this gridlock? The short answer is that the speaker and majority leader placed expediency and control over regular order and transparency, and pursued a strategy that would bypass House and Senate Committee markup, thus forcing the supplemental bill through both bodies with limited debate.
Instead of allowing discussion and amendments on perhaps the only appropriations bill to be enacted into law this year, the Democratic leadership has chosen a flawed strategy of congressional self-censorship. In fact, the legislation the Senate Committee will consider has already been largely pre-negotiated with the House.
What is particularly frustrating for many on Capitol Hill is that, with the exception of the eleventh-hour submission of a fiscal 2009 budget amendment by the Office of Management and Budget, the supplemental request by the president has been pending in Congress for more than 14 months.
That may be the gestation period of a donkey, but it should not be how long it takes to consider and pass a funding bill necessary to sustain our troops abroad and other national security programs.
The duties and responsibility of the Congress are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, including in Article 1, Section 8 which provides Congress the power to “provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States” and in Article 1, Section 9 that states that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law.”
The consequences of bypassing markup in the House, and limiting debate on the floors of both legislative bodies, will be dire. Decisionmaking power shifts away from deliberative committee consensus to the individual determinations of respective committee chairmen, and the majority leader and speaker of the House.
Transparency and accountability are the first casualties. Those concerned with “airdropping” of earmarks should be prepared for an “air assault” of funding and policy decisions by a powerful few.
And a airdropping of earmarks did happen:
If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) looks like he has dishpan hands, it may be from scrubbing the supplemental war spending bill before it hits the Senate floor today.
After a freewheeling Senate Appropriations Committee markup last week that added more than $1 billion to a bill that already posted $9 billion over the president’s request, Senate Democratic aides indicated that an effort was under way to make the measure more difficult for Republicans to oppose and procedurally easier to move across the Senate floor.
It was unclear on Monday what Reid and the Appropriations staff might be trying to eliminate from the bill, but good candidates could be found in several of the amendments adopted during the markup last week. Case in point: Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) amendment to provide limited visas for immigrant agricultural workers, a proposal similar to her long-standing “Ag Jobs” measure.
Besides “Ag Jobs,” Senate Democratic staffers were combing through the bill to identify other provisions that would be subject to points of order, which could create a procedural nightmare for the Majority Leader as he seeks to finish debate on the supplemental before the Memorial Day recess begins on Friday.
Of course, Democratic aides cautioned that efforts to scrub the measure of contentious domestic items might be met with pushback from powerful Democratic Senators, leading to uncertainty about what might be scrapped.
None of this would be a problem if Reid had forced 90-year-old Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) to cancel his markup of the bill. Reid initially attempted to craft a bill with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that would have avoided both House and Senate Appropriations panels, but Byrd was not about to be bypassed considering recent questions raised about his fitness for his job, Democratic aides said.
Despite Reid and Pelosi’s attempts to keep the bill’s domestic provisions narrowly focused on new education programs for veterans and extending jobless benefits, the Senate measure quickly became unwieldy with the addition of $9 billion for programs such as scientific research, local law enforcement grants, highway repair and disaster relief.
Democratic leaders see the additional spending as veto bait and possibly as interfering with their message of providing for veterans and the unemployed. And Republicans agree, saying the Senate committee’s decision to increase the supplemental’s price tag will make it harder for Democrats to tar Republicans as having voted against a new GI bill in the measure.
“There is not going to be a vote on the GI bill. There’ll be a vote on a package that includes the GI bill,” said one senior Senate Republican aide.
All this could of been avoided if the politicians had just passed a clean spending bill, as asked for by President Bush. But no….its politics as usual and the troops are the ones who will suffer:
Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Notes “We Stop Paying Soldiers On The 15th Of June,” Yet The Majority Leader Claims Speedy Funding Passage Is “No Big Deal”
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “I think we’ll do our best to finish this before the Memorial Day break, but if we don’t, it’s no big deal.” (“Murtha Doesn’t Need Full Committee Markup On War Funds,” CongressDaily, 04/18/08)CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS SAYS TROOPS NEED SUPPLEMENTAL FUNDING BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY RECESS “VERY BADLY”
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: “We need [the supplemental appropriations bill] very badly before the Memorial Day recess. We stop paying soldiers on the 15th of June and we have precious little flexibility with respect to that.” (“Mullen Says Pentagon Needs Funds Quickly,” Roll Call, 05/05/08)
DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS CHAIRMAN JOHN MURTHA CONFIRMS ADMIRAL MULLEN’S ASSESSMENT
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D-PA) ON PROVIDING TROOP FUNDING BEFORE JUNE 15: “It Has To Be Done.” (“Murtha Doesn’t Need Full Committee Markup On War Funds,” CongressDaily, 04/18/08)
The Republicans are hashing out some strategy to deal with this nonsense tho:
Senate Republicans are weighing strategies to defeat a Democratic war-spending bill that combines Iraq and Afghanistan funding with sensitive domestic proposals expected to re-emerge on the campaign trail.
One serious consideration is to allow the emergency war-spending bill to advance to President Bush, who is expected to veto the measure and force Democrats to negotiate closer to the GOP terms, several senior Republican aides said Monday. The move would also allow the Senate GOP to deflect blame for blocking the must-pass measure.~~~
Much of the strategy will be hashed out at Tuesday’s GOP policy lunch and will be influenced by what Reid does.
Reid’s move comes amid weeks of carefully choreographed negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) aimed at combining the war funding with Democrats’ preferred domestic policy initiatives, including a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits, a delay of seven controversial Medicaid rules and expand GI Bill benefits for all military personnel who have serve in active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
The calculation was that Republicans would feel political pressure to accept the popular domestic initiatives needed for the slumping economy in exchange for more war money, effectively avoiding a protracted election-year fight with Bush.
But that strategy was thrown into jeopardy last week when House Republicans staged a protest on the Democratic procedures and refused to vote on the war spending. At the same time, the Senate Appropriations Committee added billions of new spending and controversial measures to the bill, including the farm-workers amendment.
It appears unlikely that Congress will clear the emergency supplemental spending bill before the Memorial Day recess, which begins next week.
And then we have Pete Stark making an idiot of himself, once again, this time by being a-scared upon seeing some military members inside Congress while they were working on this bill: (via Gateway Pundit)
May 16, 2008
The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Secretary Gates:
Yesterday, while voting on the war supplemental spending bill in the House of Representatives, I couldn’t help but notice a contingent of approximately 20 flag rank Army officers sitting in the House Gallery watching the debate and vote for a couple of hours. I was looking from below so I thought they were Army, but there could have been other branches present.
It’s possible they were on leave time or vacation. If so, I obviously have no concern. However, if they were doing this on military time, I want an explanation of why they were there.
At a time when our nation is at war, our troops are over-extended, and the Administration is literally asking for emergency military spending, what good to the “war on terror” is having US Generals and other top ranked officers – who were likely accompanied by staff and escorted by their chauffeurs – spending hours sitting in the gallery of the House of Representatives?
Please provide for me the name, rank, branch, and duties of each of these officers, as well as the number of additional staff and drivers that were used to facilitate their attendance yesterday. I would like this information by Monday, May 19th.
If they were here on official duty, this was an abhorrent misallocation of our military resources at a time of war.
CC: The Honorable Ike Skelton, Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
CC: The Honorable Jack Murtha, Chairman, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Defense
It only took a few hours for the man to look like an ass:
Stark’s office released that letter around noon Friday. About four-and-a-half hours later came a shorter release in which Stark said he’d been informed that the onlookers weren’t generals, but a class from the war college in Carlisle, Pa.
“I appreciate the swift response,” Stark said in his follow-up statement, without retracting or apologizing for his earlier complaints. “However, if these officers were hoping for a lesson in how Congress ought to work, then perhaps the Iraq supplemental wasn’t the best debate for them to witness.”
Au contraire, this is the perfect example to watch. They get to see how partisan and inept this Pelosi/Reid Congress really is.