Bipartisan accord reached on war funding

/ Source: The Associated Press

Democratic and GOP leaders in the House announced agreement Wednesday on a long-delayed war funding bill. They say President Bush will sign it.

The agreement on the war funding bill, announced by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, also paves the way for a quick infusion of emergency flood relief for the Midwest, an extension of unemployment payments for the jobless and a big boost in GI Bill college for veterans.

It would also provide about $165 billion to the Pentagon to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for about a year. That's enough time for Bush's successor to set Iraq policy.

“This is an agreement that has been worked out in a bipartisan way that I think is acceptable to both most Democrats and most Republicans and to the White House,” Boehner said.

The agreement drops restrictions on Bush's ability to conduct the war and gives him almost all of the funding he sought well over a year ago for Iraq and Afghanistan. But he also backed away from veto threats he issued earlier over Democrats' insistence on using the Iraq funding bill to carry a generous boost in the GI Bill and an extension of unemployment payments for people whose benefits have run out.

The war funding bill had bedeviled Democratic leaders for months. Its passage has become more urgent with looming furloughs next month of civilian employees and contract workers.

Conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats are upset that the new GI Bill benefits, with costs tentatively estimated at $62 billion over the next decade, will be added to the deficit instead of being “paid for” as called for under House rules.

But the White House and Republicans insisted that House Democrats’ offset — a one-half percentage point surcharge on wealthier taxpayers — was unacceptable.