Rep. Neal (D-MA): ‘Difficult’ for House to Pass Straight-up War Funding Bill

By Alex Pepper

Jul 20, 2010 2:42pm

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports:

Today on ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), a high-ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said that if the Senate sends the House a straight-up war funding bill, it would be “difficult” for the House to pass it.

“You’re hopeful that the leadership and the leaders of the respective committees might be able to, again, try to find some common ground on that issue,” he said. “But it would be difficult, I think, to take the theory that you’ve just offered: Bring it back to the House and ask for an up-or-down vote on it.”

Earlier this month the House passed an $80 billion package that included funding for the troop surge in Afghanistan as well as domestic spending add-ons. House and Senate Democrats are at odds over what is included in their respective war funding packages and it looks like there may be a tough road ahead to reconcile differences.

Rep. Neal said he would take the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and use that money to pay for the cost of the war in Iraq.

“We have a long-term obligation in Iraq to our veterans and the veterans’ hospitals as an example of what’s going to happen over the next 30 to 40 years,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “That will be north of $1 trillion, and when you consider before the war in Iraq is over, that will be another $1 trillion. We’re talking about some serious challenges that we face, and I think putting the Bush tax cuts on the table to pay for those costs is a very timely matter.”

With the Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of this year, Republicans have said they will do all they can to keep them in place, arguing that tax increases are a bad move in a fragile economy.

Democrats may find themselves in a political jam as they work to keep in place the middle class tax cuts while letting the cuts for the wealthiest Americans

Neal said that he is not calling for a tax increase but acknowledged that if the tax cuts were to expire, taxes will go up for some Americans.

Neal said Congress has a challenge in determining how far to extend unemployment benefits, in particular with the so-called “99-ers,” those Americans who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks and have exhausted their benefits.

“Trying to offer, I think, some evidence that an individual has been seeking unemployment, even if they discover that it’s been unsuccessful, then I think that we ought to give them due diligence, that we ought to make sure that the opportunity of providing them with extended benefits is there,” Neal said.

Watch the full interview with Rep. Richard Neal HERE.

For our daily “Post Politics” segment, we talked to The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, co-author of the series “”Top Secret America” that looks at the nation’s massive defense and intelligence structure built after the attacks of Sept. 11.

Priest said it was hard not to let her jaw drop on the table when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told her that he could not get a basic head count on the number of contractors who work for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

“He’s making the point that they’re trying to do something about it, but it’s hard to do so, it’s hard,” Priest said. “One of the reasons it’s so hard is because this contractor workforce grew up so quickly and so large after 9/11. They were just, you know, shoving bodies into places because they wanted to increase the capability of their intelligence services after 9/11.”

Watch the full interview with Dana Priest HERE:

-Karen Travers

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