WASHINGTON - The Senate is slated to vote today on providing $165 billion to fund Pentagon operations in Iraq and Afghanistan until a new administration takes over next year.
A plan announced last night by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) would give great leverage to Republicans and probably doom billions of dollars in domestic programs Democrats sought, including a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for people whose benefits have run out.
It would probably kill funding for heating subsidies, for fighting Western wildfires, and for rural schools, among many programs backed by senators in both parties despite a promised presidential veto.
In exchange, GOP leaders would allow a vote on a big expansion of education benefits for veterans under the GI Bill. GOP leaders hope to block the amendment in order to send a "clean" war-funding bill back to the House, but Democrats expressed hope they would win the 60 votes needed to adopt it.
The White House has promised to veto the additional education benefits for veterans, arguing that they would hurt efforts to reenlist troops finishing their stints in the service.
Democrats still held out some hope for almost $28 billion in nondefense spending, though that would require them to win over a dozen or more Republicans in a vote today - a difficult task at best.
The deal reached between Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) also would provide for passage of President Bush's funding request without restrictions on his conduct of the Iraq war.
The deal, if passed today, would send the war-funding bill to the House in hopes it would soon reach Bush's desk.