Despite pessimism that the war in Afghanistan is turning out to be a quagmire, Democrats controlling the House muscled through a plan Thursday to finance President Barack Obama's troop surge, but only after sweetening the measure with last-ditch moves to salvage their faltering jobs agenda. Long delayed, the approximately $80 billion bill was passed amid building pressure on Democrats to act before their weeklong Fourth of July break begins. But the Senate approved a significantly slimmer measure in May and it'll take additional weeks to reconcile the differences between the two battling chambers.
The crucial vote to advance the measure under unusually convoluted floor rules came on a 215-210 tally to bring up the nearly $60 billion Senate-passed measure for debate. Democrats added more than $20 billion for domestic programs late Thursday, including $10 billion in grants to school districts to avoid teacher layoffs, $5 billion for Pell Grants to low-income college students and $700 million to improve security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Black lawmakers won add-ons of their own, including a $1 billion youth summer jobs initiative and money to pay discrimination claims by black farmers against the Agriculture Department
The White House weighed in with a veto threat over $800 million in cuts to education programs. The cuts would be used to help pay for the additional domestic spending, which was sought by top Democrats such as Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin. The move infuriated Obey, who acidly pointed out that he had drafted legislation last year that contained the money and that even with the $800 billion cut, more than $3 billion would be left over.
The $60 billion Senate-passed measure blends $30 billion for the influx of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan with money for disaster aid accounts, foreign aid and disability benefits for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. The Senate passed it in May, but House leaders spent weeks trying to solve the puzzle of how to pass it over the reservations of an increasing number of anti-war House Democrats. The delays have eroded whatever leverage House Democrats may have in upcoming dealings with the Senate and the White House, which seem to want the war funding bill signed into law as soon as possible.
The House measure will receive a cold reception from Senate Republicans, who would have the votes to filibuster it, according to Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, a senior Republican whose support was central to Senate passage. SOURCE: Huffington Post