War funds bill still draws House GOP ire

House Republicans who backed the nomination of Gen. David Petraeus to be the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said the move doesn’t change their opposition to the Democrats’ war and domestic spending bill.

House GOP leaders lauded the popular general on Wednesday after President Barack Obama tapped him as the replacement to Gen. Stanley McChrystal and said they’re ready to work with the White House on passing the war money.

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Obama relieved McChrystal of his war duties after the general and his staff disparaged top administration officials in Rolling Stone magazine.

But House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and Republicans have criticized a House Democratic plan to combine the $33.5 billion in war spending with roughly $50 billion more for education and public safety jobs, foreign aid and disaster assistance. GOP members have argued for a separate bill that would include only money for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Petraeus’s selection hadn’t changed GOP members’ views, Republican staffers said.

“The longer Democrat leadership continues to hold out and stack a bunch of extraneous stuff on there like the teacher bailout, the longer it’s going to take,” said a Republican appropriations staffer. “Frankly, they’re going to need our votes.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has pressed lawmakers to approve the funding before the congressional July 4 recess.

The combined spending measure has stalled in the House as liberal war skeptics have also sought a separate vote on the war money.

“Those who want to vote to continue funding the war that I disagreed with and they want should be allowed to make that vote,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who has opposed the Afghanistan war from its start. “For those of us who want to see the creation of jobs, Haiti [earthquake aid], all of the other domestic priorities, we should have a separate vote.”

One option House leaders are considering would be to allow separate votes on the war spending and the other programs but combine them into one bill afterward. Lee and other liberals have reacted coolly to that approach.

Democratic lawmakers said they’ve yet to decide how to move forward after a closed-door meeting on Wednesday.

“While we continue to have discussions on the supplemental [spending bill], our troops are our priority, and unlike Republicans, we are not interested in scoring cheap political points,” a Democratic aide said.