The delay could have a ripple effect in the Senate, where Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) has scheduled a markup Thursday afternoon on a Senate version of the House bill.
Late Wednesday, Byrd appeared determined to go ahead, but that could change given the confusion in the House.
Both draft bills commit to a landmark expansion of education benefits for veterans who have served since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Strong House and Senate majorities support the initiative but fiscal conservatives are concerned about the fact that the full 10-year-cost of about $52 billion will be added to the deficit without any offsets in the shape of tax revenues or spending cuts.
At the same time, House Republicans have been in open revolt over the tactics used by the Democratic leadership, going around the traditional committee procedures of the Appropriations panel. Democrats say that they believe they can still resolve the differences in their ranks and bring the bill to the floor, but the margins could be tight, and Democrats confirmed that concern over the costs--and party unity--was a reason for the delay.