It’s likely to be a long night on the House floor as lawmakers once again take up legislation to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the next few months.
President Bush vetoed the funding bill sent to him last week because it included timelines for withdrawing troops. He has already vowed to veto this bill as well because it would divide the money up in two parts _ one allotment would be made once the bill is signed but the other would be withheld until the president reported to Congress progress made on a number of political issues in Iraq.
There are plenty of news reports on this new legislation available to you — from newspapers, wire services, broadcast outlets, etc. — most of which, by necessity, summarize the bill’s contents and intent.
I wanted to let you read the description of the bill sent to Democratic lawmakers earlier this week. There is some jargon and, of course, some acronyms: BRAC refers to base closure and realignment; SCHIP is the state health insurance program for children; LIHEAP is a program that helps the poor pay for their heating bills; and FY is fiscal year.
What you get from this description is an explanation of what Democrats are looking for in terms of progress in Iraq — the “benchmarks.”
This is from the Democratic Whip’s Office (that’s the leader who is responsible for counting and rounding up votes on bills).
FY 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bills
On Thursday and Friday, May 10 and 11, the House will likely consider the FY 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bills.
The Supplemental will be divided into two separate bills. The first bill will focus primarily on the issue of Iraq but also include provisions addressing other military and domestic emergencies such as funding for international assistance and food aid; military construction for Iraq and Afghanistan; Veterans’ medical care; BRAC; homeland security improvements; Hurricane Katrina Recovery; Avian flu; LIHEAP; SCHIP.
This bill would also include provisions adopting a minimum wage and associated tax relief provisions; restrictions on the closure of Walter Reed; waiver of Stafford Act; forgiveness for community disaster loans; and a Medicaid provision.
The second bill will focus on rural and agricultural concerns such as agricultural disaster relief; wild land firefighting; funds for rural schools; and resources for California Salmon issues.
Please note: All of the funding levels in both bills are identical to what was passed in the Supplemental Conference report.
The leadership of our Caucus is urging all Members to support this legislation. These bills represent yet another step in a systematic approach to transition control to the Iraqi people and end American involvement in this war.
Please find below a detailed summary below that outlines the language regarding Iraqi funding and benchmarks as well as the other provisions within the two bills:
Supplemental Bill #1:
Would provide the full $95.5 billion for defense needs included in the vetoed bill, but all except 3 months of funding would be fenced and unavailable for obligation until released by subsequent legislation similar to the way the MX issue was handled in 1984:
Would include benchmarks similar to those proposed by the President and included in the vetoed bill and require the President to report to Congress by July 13 on progress in meeting those benchmarks. These benchmarks would include progress by the Government of Iraq in:
· Giving United States Armed Forces and Iraqi Security Forces the authority to pursue all extremists, including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias;
· Delivering necessary Iraqi Security Forces for Baghdad and protecting such Forces from political interference; intensifying efforts to build balanced security forces throughout Iraq that provide even-handed security for all Iraqis;
· Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi Security Forces;
· Eliminating militia control of local security;
· Establishing a strong militia disarmament program;
· Ensuring fair and just enforcement of laws;
· Establishing political, media, economic, and service committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan;
· Eradicating safe havens; reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq; and
· Ensuring the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi Parliament are protected.
Would require the President to report to Congress by July 13 on whether specified goals actually have been accomplished. These goals include the Government of Iraq:
· Enacting a broadly accepted hydro-carbon law that equitably shares oil revenues among all Iraqis;
· Adopting legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections, taking steps to implement such legislation, and setting a schedule to conduct provincial and local elections;
· Reforming current laws governing the de-Baathification process to allow for more equitable treatment of individuals affected by such laws;
· Amending the Constitution of Iraq consistent with the principles contained in Article 137 of such constitution; and
· Allocating and beginning expenditure of $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.
After receiving the reports in July, both the House and Senate would vote on whether to release the remaining Defense funds. Expedited procedures are written into this bill to ensure that the subsequent vote takes place in both Houses by the end of July. These expedited procedures would be considered on the House floor in July in conjunction with the FY 2008 Defense appropriations bill.
Those procedures would also guarantee a vote in the House on an amendment to provide that defense funding related to Iraq could only be used to plan and execute the redeployment of troops within 180 days of enactment.
The only exceptions to this troop redeployment would be for troops protecting American diplomatic facilities and American citizens, including members of the U.S. armed forces; serving in roles consistent with customary diplomatic positions; engaging in targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations with global reach; or training and equipping members of the Iraqi Security Forces.
Would require the President to submit a monthly report accounting for the number of Iraqi security battalions at each level of combat proficiency.
Would also include a sense of Congress provision that as each battalion of the security forces of Iraq achieves the appropriate combat proficiency sufficient to conduct independent combat operations without support from Coalition forces in Iraq, a unit of the United States of comparable size should be withdrawn.
Would also include:
Prohibition on establishment of permanent bases in Iraq;
Prohibition on torture;
Murtha readiness provisions;
Death gratuity amendment.
o $6.2 billion for international assistance (including food aid) for Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and others;
o $1.7 billion for military construction related to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan;
o $1.8 billion for veterans’ medical care;
o $3.1 billion to fully fund BRAC;
o $2.250 billion to improve homeland security;
o $6.8 billion for Hurricane Katrina recovery;
o $663 million for Avian flu;
o $400 million for LIHEAP;
o $393 million to fund the short-term SCHIP fix;
o Minimum wage and associated tax relief provisions.
o Restrictions on the closure of Walter Reed;
o Waiver of Stafford Act;
o Community disaster loan forgiveness provision;
o Durbin Medicaid provision.
Supplemental Bill #2:
Agricultural and Rural Relief:
o $3.5 billion for agricultural disaster relief;
o $500 million for wild land firefighting;
o $425 million for Rural Schools;
o $60 million for California Salmon.