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Supplemental Moves Forward With Non-Military Spending Added

In the past the Bush Administration, and really a number of wartime administrations, used supplemental funding acts separate from the normal budget. This was done as the necessary spending could not be predicted for operations. Doing this allowed the core budget to work without the disruption of transferring funds from programs to pay for operations. One problem though with giving Congress a chance to pass a spending bill is that they add things to it. The President has to accept the whole bill or not since the Supreme Court ruled the line item veto unconstitutional.

Obama promised to end the practice of using supplementals for military spending starting in 2010. He submitted one last one to cover this fiscal year. The total asked for by the Pentagon was eighty-four billion or so. Now the House Democrats have finished their mark up of the bill and it has grown by ten billion dollars. Once the House approves it, and the Democrats should get something close to their proposal, the bill it will go to Senate for their action. Any major differences will be settled in conference.

Part of the issue facing Obama and Secretary of Defense Gates is that the supplemental was not passed before Gates announced his major changes to defense spending. The House has moved to fix some of those ideas. For one there is funding for more C-17 aircraft in the supplemental -- about $2.2 billion worth. The Pentagon had hoped to end production with the last order also added by Congress. Now a few more will be built by Boeing if the measure stands.

The bill includes $2 billion for fighting the H1N1 flu outbreak as well as money for Mexico to counter the drug wars. Foreign aid for the Palestinians and Israel is in the legislation as well. As the Bush administration found Congress is tying increased aid to Pakistan and Afghanistan to the generation of reports on progress in those countries. Congress often does this as a way of providing limits on the executive branch's actions. Despite the Democratic administration the Congress is still wary of providing blank checks for action in South West Asia.

Congress has made a habit for the last few decades of attaching various policy and spending initiatives to these types of bills. The leadership knows a member will be hard put to vote against the final bill as it includes so much that is considered critical for the government and military. Unfortunately this is one way that the total government spending is increased beyond initial plans and only makes it harder to control the total.

The bill still has to go through the full House, the Senate must make theirs, and then a final compromise reached. This means that all of the things proposed so far may not make it to the end. There is a good chance though that the total in the end will be more then the $84 billion originally asked for.

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