CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is scheduled to begin consideration of H.R. 2346, the Fiscal Year 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Conference Report, on Tuesday, June 16, 2009, likely subject to a closed rule. H.R. 2346 was introduced on May 12, 2009, by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) and referred to the Committee on Appropriations, which reported the bill by voice vote. On May 14, 2009, the House passed its version of an emergency war funding supplemental for Fiscal Year 2009 by a vote of 368-60.
H.R. 2346 provides a total of $105.8 billion in emergency supplemental funding for Fiscal Year 2009, which is $9.1 billion above the House-passed total of 96.7 billion and $14.5 billion above the Senate-passed total of $91.3 billion.
The Conference Report provides $77.1 billion in spending for defense and ongoing wars, which is $4.1 billion less than the House bill. The Conference Report includes $2.7 billion for military construction, $500 million less than the House bill.
H.R. 2346 provides $15.9 billion (or 17.6 percent) more than the $89.9 billion total requested by the President. The Conference Report contains $1.6 billion (or 1.8 percent) more than the President's request for ongoing war operations. The bill also includes $14.2 billion (or 98 percent) more than the President's request for other spending. The Conference Report includes numerous non-defense spending provisions which were not included in the House-passed bill.
H.R. 2346 Conference Report Compared to the President's Request
Ongoing War Operations
Military Construction, State Department, IMF, Flu Preparedness, and other funding
Spending Highlights and Other Provisions
Defense: The Conference Report provides $77.1 billion in defense spending for ongoing military operations, including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense procurement, and military construction. The bill includes funding for military personnel, ongoing military operations and maintenance, procurement, research, development, testing, and evaluation, the defense health program, the joint IED defeat program, the mine-resistant vehicle fund, and stop-loss pay.
Guantanamo Bay: The Conference Report does not include $80 million ($50 million for the Iraq Freedom Fund and $30 million for the Department of Justice) that was requested by the President and included in the Senate bill to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. There is not, however, language prohibiting the President from potentially using other funding to close the facility.
The bill does contain less potent language than the Senate or House bill's regarding Guantanamo Bay detainees. The language would prohibit releasing detainees into the U.S. before October 1, 2009, but would not block their release into the U.S. after such time. The Conference Report would also allow detainees to be released to foreign countries after a classified 15 day notification period. In addition, the Conference Report would allow detainees to be transferred to the U.S. for pretrial detention after a 45 day notification period to the relevant State governor. Pretrial transfer would also require a classified threat assessment to determine that the detainee would present little or no threat to the U.S. The Conference Report does not contain a ban on releasing detainees into the U.S. if a court decides not to try the individual.
Members have expressed numerous concerns about releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees into the U.S. The language in the Conference Report creates a threshold for bringing prisoners to the U.S. that is weaker than both the original House and Senate bills.
Detainee Photographs: The Conference Report does not contain a Senate amendment to block the release of photographs of individuals captured or detained by the U.S. military during overseas operations between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009. The provision would have required the Secretary of Defense to certify if the release of such photographs would endanger citizens of the U.S. or members of the Armed Forces deployed overseas. If certified, the photos would have been blocked from disclosure for three years. The Secretary could renew the certification at any time. Without this language, the decision whether to release these potentially dangerous photos remains in the hands of the courts.
International Monetary Fund: The Conference Report provides $108 billion in new loan authority for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which the President agreed to at April's G-20 summit. The funding is unrelated to U.S. war efforts, and may fundamentally change the IMF's role while weakening the U.S.'s power within the institution. The provision represents a ten-fold increase in the U.S.'s current IMF contribution to fund a massive expansion of the IMF's lending programs. The funds for this increase coincide with $4.1 billion in cuts made to defense spending in the House-passed bill.
Many Members have expressed concerns that the additional IMF loan guarantees are tantamount to an international bailout and should not be included in an emergency troop funding bill. In addition, Members have been concerned that the funds provided to the IMF could be passed on to state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. Some of the funds would be used to increase the IMF's Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), which is an international reserve established to supplement the existing official reserves of member countries. Under the program, member countries are given access to SDRs based on their proportional investment in the IMF and can exchange the IMF currency for hard currency, like dollars. All members of the IMF are allowed access to this money to some extent or another. In a June 9 letter to Speaker Pelosi, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor stated that "Venezuela will receive a benefit worth up to $3.2 billion, Syria $350 million, Sudan, $202 million, Iran $1.8 billion, Bolivia $204 million, Myanmar $308 million, and Zimbabwe $421 million."
Cash for Clunkers: The Conference Report provides $1 billion for a program to issue vouchers between $3,500 and $4,500 to offset the purchase of a new vehicle upon the trade-in of a vehicle with less fuel efficiency. By offering a federal voucher to anyone who trades in a less fuel-efficient car for a new one, proponents of the legislation argue that the bill will increase car sales and help struggling car manufacturers. Many Members argue that the voucher would amount to nothing more than a subsidy to prop up auto manufacturers, many of which have already received billions in taxpayer money. Others suggest that by granting vouchers only for the purchase of new cars, and not more fuel-efficient used cars, the bill makes it difficult for low-income families to take advantage of the voucher.
Health and Human Services: The Conference Report provides $1.85 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency fund to prepare for an influenza pandemic, including tools to assist international efforts to respond to H1N1 influenza (swine flu). Of the funds made available, $350 million would be earmarked for State and local government preparation and $200 million would be set aside for international disease surveillance through the CDC. An additional $200 million is made available for pandemic preparedness through the State Department's Global Health and Child Survival program.
Contingent Emergency Flu Appropriation: The Conference Report provides $5.8 billion as a "contingent" emergency appropriation to provide Federal, State, and local public health and emergency response agencies with resources to effectively respond should an escalation of the HINI virus require a national vaccination program.
Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: The Conference Report provides $14.7 billion for the Department of State for foreign operations-$5.3 billion above the House bill-including the following:
Capitol Police: The Conference Report provides $71 million for the Legislative Branch to acquire a new, modernized digital radio system for the U.S. Capitol Police.
Federal Judiciary: The Conference Report provides $10 million for the Federal Judiciary to fund immigration enforcement.
Customs and Border Protection: The Conference Report provides $46 million for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) salaries and expenses which was not included in the House-passed bill.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement: The Conference Report includes $66 million for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) salaries and expenses.
Wildfire: The Conference Report provides $250 million for wildfire activities, including $50 million for wildfire suppression and emergency rehabilitation activities through the US Fire Administration and $200 million through the US Forest Service.
Military Construction: The Conference Report provides a total of $2.7 billion for military construction-$500 million less than the House bill. This funding would be supplemented by a $1.4 billion rescission from a cancellation of military construction projects in Iraq.
CBO: The Conference Report provides $2 million for the Congressional Budget Office that was not included in the House bill.
Hamas: The Conference Report provides assistance to Hamas or an entity controlled by Hamas, but allows assistance to a government that shares power with Hamas if the President approves.
Airport Trust Fund: The Conference Report provides $13 million to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund to carry out the "essential air services program." This funding was not included in the House bill.
FAA: The Conference Report provides $13 million in excess Grants-in-Aid for Airports contract authority. This funding was not included in the House bill.
On May 14, 2009, the House passed its version of an emergency war funding supplemental for Fiscal Year 2009 by a vote of 368-60. The House-passed bill included a total of $96.7 billion, including $81.3 billion for ongoing defense operations and $3.2 billion for military construction. The Senate passed its version of the bill on May 21, 2009, by a vote of 86-3. The Senate bill included a lower spending total ($91.3 billion) and a lower amount for defense-related activities ($73 billion for defense and $2.2 million for military construction).
Last week, Democrats in the House and Senate came to a conference agreement on the final language for the Conference Report. The agreement provides billions in non-defense funding, including $108 billion to expand the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) loan programs, which was not included in the House bill. The $108 billion was agreed to by the President in April when he and other members of the G-20 created a plan to increase IMF supplemental funding by tenfold and broaden the role of the Fund. House Republicans have strongly opposed slipping this international bailout into a troop funding bill. The Democrats deal also includes billions in unrelated spending for the State Department. House Democrats spent last week attempting to get anti-war Democrats to switch their votes and support the bill in order to negate Republican opposition to the non-defense spending. On Thursday, House and Senate conferees were appointed, and the House supported a Republican Motion to Instruct Conferees (MTI) which directed the conferees to maximize defense spending, reduce the overall cost of the bill, include an amendment blocking the release of photos that could endanger troops, and make the text of the bill available 48 hours before a vote. The MTI passed by a vote of 267-152, however, the MTI's instructions were ignored.
The agreement does not include a Senate provision to prevent the release of photos of Guantanamo Bay detainees-even if the photos put U.S. troops at greater risk. The agreement also contains billions for flu pandemics, vouchers to offset the purchase of a new vehicle upon the trade-in of a vehicle with less fuel efficiency, and allows Guantanamo detainees to be brought to the U.S. for trial. Members have expressed various concerns regarding the bill, including the inclusion of billions in non-defense spending that is not related to emergency troop funding. Members have also expressed concern that the Conference Report would allow Guantanamo Bay detainees to be transferred to the U.S. for pretrial determinations. Numerous Members have called for the Majority to bring forward a clean supplemental appropriation which only contains funding for ongoing war operations, but Democrats have refused.
According to CBO, H.R. 2346 would appropriate $105.8 billion in emergency funds for ongoing war operations and other spending in Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010.