By Walter Alarkon - 05/25/10 09:31 PM EDT
House Democrats want to attach to a war spending bill a host of domestic spending provisions that would cost more than the war funding alone.
House Democrats want to add about $50 billion in additional domestic spending to legislation funding the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which already bankrolls some domestic programs.
According to a draft bill obtained by The Hill, Democrats are mulling a package of education, jobs and energy programs to be added to the war measure. The Senate version of the bill, which doesn't have those provisions, costs $58.8 billion and includes the war funding, foreign aid, domestic disaster aid and compensation for veterans.
The additional domestic funding includes a $23 billion fund to help state and local governments stave off teacher cutbacks, $1.2 billion to prevent police layoffs and $500 million to retain state and local firefighters. The Obama administration has called on lawmakers to pass those items along with the war spending, arguing they could save up to 300,000 jobs.
The House draft also includes $5.67 billion for Pell Grants to help college students, $9 billion in loans for renewable energy projects and $9 billion in loans for nuclear energy projects.
The bill would provide $37.5 billion for military and State Department operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is comparable to the amount in the version being debated on the Senate floor. The draft also has $13.4 billion in compensation for Vietnam veterans exposed to the chemical Agent Orange, just like the Senate bill.
The draft of the House legislation doesn't appear to include $5.1 billion for domestic disaster aid, as is in the Senate measure.
The war bill is expected to get a vote in the Senate this week but isn't likely to hit the House floor until next month, after the Memorial Day recess.
By including the domestic funding, House Democrats would be betting they can pass the war measure without the support of Republicans, who have backed additional war spending but oppose the domestic spending provisions.
Also, Democrats are staking their election-year hopes on the economy improving, and endangered incumbents may be reluctant to vote against a bill that would help save jobs.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has called for a “clean” war bill, and Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), the top House GOP appropriator, has said he would oppose the war bill if it comes attached with the $23 billion for teachers.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said the additional domestic spending Democrats are considering is "unacceptable."
A group of anti-war Democrats may also vote against the war bill. Last year's spending bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts passed 226-202 over the opposition of nearly all Republicans, who protested the inclusion of foreign aid in the measure, and of 32 Democrats.
Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) said he and other opponents of President Barack Obama's plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan want separate votes for the war spending and the domestic money, and a vote on an exit strategy for the U.S. military.
"To lump this war funding ... together with teacher money and money for police and firefighters and humanitarian aid, I find that wrong, and I hope we're not put in that position," McGovern told The Hill.
-- Roxana Tiron contributed to this article.
-- This article was originally posted at 2:53 p.m.