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Republican Appropriators Ask Obey (again) For Committee Hearing On Supplemental

Echoing terms laid out by Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.V.), Republican appropriators in the House made another push Thursday to schedule a committee hearing on legislation to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We urge you in the strongest possible terms to follow Senator Byrd's example and schedule a full committee markup in the House," Republican members of the Appropriations Committee, led by California Rep. Jerry Lewis, implored Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) in a letter.

Democratic leaders in the House are mulling a maneuver to bring the war-funding bill to the floor without a hearing or vote in committee - the standard practice for most bills. Circumventing the committee process would allow Democrats to avoid politically unpalatable votes offered by members of the minority, but it could also create problems later in the process by limiting debate - and public consideration - of that bill.

However, to do this, House leaders need Democrats in the Senate to play along, and Byrd complicated those efforts on Wednesday when he declared his intention to hold a hearing on the supplemental spending bill whatever Obey and others decide.

In challenging their chairman, Lewis and his GOP colleagues called efforts to circumvent the committee "an historical and unprecedented abdication of responsibility" that members of both parties would consider "a shameful power grab by House and Senate leaders."

UPDATE: Responding to the letter, one senior Democratic aide said, "Jerry who?"

Obey and other leading Democrats are still tinkering with the massive spending bill. That package could also include priority domestic items, such as an extension of unemployment benefits or more money for college aid to veterans. But those details, as well as these procedural questions, remain in flux.

Since losing power, House Republicans have repeatedly challenged majority leaders to use the regular committee process, arguing the standard practice would give them input on pending legislation and help Democratic leaders work out problems before bills come to the floor.