By Molly K. Hooper and Jared Allen - 06/09/09 07:46 PM EDT
House Republicans facing challenging reelection races are leaning against voting for a war supplemental bill if it includes funding for the International Monetary Fund.
Lacking the votes, House Democrats last week decided not to bring the bill to the floor.
Yet, there is a political risk for Republicans, whose votes could be used in campaign ads next year.
A Democratic leadership aide told The Hill that vulnerable Republican members would be “brain-dead to vote against the troops ... [doing so] would undercut any advantage they think they have on national security.”
For now, vulnerable Republicans are indicating they will not vote for the bill if it has IMF funding.
Targeted GOP members who say they will vote no include Reps. Dan Lungren (Calif.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.). Republican members who are leaning no are Reps. Ken Calvert (Calif.), Dave Reichert (Wash.) and Jim Gerlach (Pa.).
Last month, the House passed its war supplemental 368-60 but it was rejected by eight committee chairmen and 43 other Democrats. That bill did not include IMF provisions and it is expected that the final House-Senate measure will call for IMF funds.
GOP members who are undecided included Reps. Joseph Cao (La.) and Hal Rogers (Ala.).
Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has been extremely vocal in his conference’s opposition to the IMF funding language. Cantor and other Republicans have derided that funding as money that could be steered toward the very terrorists U.S. troops are trying to combat.
It would be risky for House Democrats to bring the bill to the floor needing GOP support. Not one House Republican backed President Obama’s budget plan nor his stimulus package.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated last week that Democrats would not be banking on Republican votes.
To that end, Democrats are toying with attaching conditions to that IMF funding, according to a leadership aide.
But many of their ongoing attempts are still hitting patches of resistance. To help shore up war-spending votes, Democrats are planning on attaching a popular “cash for clunkers” auto industry stimulus bill to the supplemental conference report.
That will not win over every auto-state Democrat, however. Anti-war Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), whose district will be hit hard by the restructuring of General Motors, said while he supported the car trade-in program, he still wouldn’t support the supplemental as long as it was a “cash for clunkers and bunkers” bill.
Despite a number of outstanding hurdles, House Democratic leaders are still eyeing passage of the supplemental spending conference report this week.
“The supplemental conference is still on the agenda pending, again, resolution between the Senate and the House,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Tuesday morning.
The Senate is not that bullish. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said Tuesday that he is “not that optimistic” that a bill will clear the upper chamber this week.
Meanwhile, House Democrats have not figured out how to overcome objections to language blocking the release of photos detailing the abuse of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
“I don’t know whether there’s been an agreement reached at this point in time,” Hoyer said.
And while Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday threatened to shut down the body if their provision to block release of the photos was stripped from the conference report, House Democrats may not have the votes to pass the war-spending bill if the Lieberman-Graham language is included.
A group of liberal House members, led by Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), are demanding hearings on the detainee photo issue, and have threatened to balk at supporting the supplemental that contains a blanket ban on the photos’ release. Frank, an Out of Iraq caucus member, voted no on the House-passed version, but has said he will vote yes on the final funding version if it does not have the Lieberman-Graham provisions.
That will not win over every auto-state Democrat, however. Anti-war Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), whose district will be hit hard by the restructuring of General Motors, said while he supported the car trade-in-program, he still wouldn’t support the supplemental as long as it was a “cash for clunkers and bunkers” bill.
President Obama on Tuesday ratcheted up his lobbying efforts among fellow Democrats on the supplemental, even doing some subtle arm-twisting on conservative Democrats in the Blue Dog Coalition who have supported the previous spending version. Blue Dogs visited the White House to meet with Obama on Tuesday to discuss healthcare reform.
Two Blue Dogs voted against the supplemental in May, but most of the opposition among Democrats has come from anti-war lawmakers.
Still, Blue Dogs have been grumbling about an earmark put in the bill by Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). The earmark includes $489 million to restore barrier islands along the Mississippi coast. Obama had previously pledged tough restrictions on earmarks.
Blue Dogs are also concerned about the overall amount of money that the Senate is seeking and share the concerns of fellow Democrats, as well as Republicans, about sending money to the IMF.
Obama told Blue Dogs he agreed with many of their concerns, but also noted they’d voted for numerous supplementals under President George W. Bush. And he told them he needed them to support the troops.
“He said we’ve got a leadership position in the world that must be upheld, and right now I need you,” said a participant in the meeting. “It was a very statesmanlike, presidential moment.”
Mike Soraghan, J. Taylor Rushing and Roxana Tiron contributed to this article, which was updated on June 10 at 11:00 a.m.