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Now, Republicans Threaten to Hold Road Home Money AND Congress Hostage

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Video shot last week in lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans. She wants to go HOME.

The Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) announced late today (Tuesday, November 6) that Congressional negotiators have agreed to provide an additional $3 billion for Louisiana's Road Home program in a pending defense bill.

"Today, members of the House and Senate Conference Committee reached an agreement to include $3 billion for the Road Home program in the Defense Appropriations Report, which could be voted on as early as next week, said LRA chairman Norman C. Francis.

As of last week, OpEdNews and the Times Picayune reported that Road Home money would not be passed out of committee, since it was attached to an Iraq spending bill. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said that until there is a change in the administration's policy in Iraq, the spending bill would not be passed out of his committee.

In a compromise move by Democrats, the Road Home money will be included in an overall Defense Budget request of $471 billion for Fiscal Year 2008. The House-Senate negotiators approved the Defense Budget without additional Iraq war funding except for $11.6 billion in “emergency money” to provide money to purchase mine- resistant vehicles.



A stop-gap continuing resolution to provide funding for all government agencies through December 14 is attached to the conference report which adds $6.4 billion for domestic spending, and an extension of last year’s “bridge fund” for overseas military operations, but that would cease once the new Defense Bill is passed.

Let’s get this straight. $3 billion for overdue Road Home money in Louisiana, and $11.6 billion for vehicles in Iraq in a bill that is not “really” about Iraq funding.

Meanwhile, Democrats will have a lot of explaining to do and are expected to bring up a separate bridge fund “of less than $50 billion,” along with language that will force a policy change in Iraq.

Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa. Murtha and House Majority Leader Hoyer did not rule out including deadlines for withdrawing troops from combat zones, which would likely lead to a veto by President Bush.

So, in summary, the Road Home money will not appear to be held up by the Democratic majority when Bush vetoes the new bill, as he most likely will.

This report now returns to the floor and must be passed in each chamber before being signed by Bush.

The compromise move obviously drew GOP protests. Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, offered an amendment to attach $70 billion in bridge funding without restrictions. He said that absent additional funding this year, the Army would run out of money in January.

Threatening to hold Congress as well as Road Home money hostage, Stevens added, "I do believe the Congress would break the Army if it refuses to provide the money the Army needs now," Stevens said. "You're not going home as long as I'm here without a bridge fund."

Democrats attached the $6.4 billion for domestic items to the new committee report after an intense lobbying effort by Louisiana officials and visits to the Gulf Coast by top Democrats.

Louisiana officials don’t care where the money comes from, but issued a statement expressing thanks to the Democratic majority for their compromise efforts. LRA chairman Norman C. Francis said, "I also join thousands of homeowners in giving an extra special thanks to leaders in the House and Senate, especially Speaker Pelosi and Majority Whip Clyburn. They have been our partners, staying the course and delivering on their commitments. Their record of support gives me great hope and confidence that the full Congress will swiftly pass this conference report."

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online (more...)
 
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