Afghan Ping Pong

The most important item on the to-do list this week for Democrats in the House is to finish work on a $58 billion plan that features extra money for the War in Afghanistan.

This bill has been bouncing back and forth between the House and Senate for several months now, what we often refer to as “Legislative Ping Pong.”

It started out as a $6 billion plan that featured $5.1 billion for FEMA, and some extra money for small business initiatives.  The House approved it in late March.

There was no money in it that dealt with Afghanistan.

Worried that the House was not going to act on that matter, Senate Democrats took the FEMA bill and added over $50 billion in spending, dominated by money for Afghanistan and earthquake relief aid for Haiti.

That was in late May.

Senate leaders urged the House to accept that plan and approve the military money, but House Democrats refused, and just before a break for July 4th, the House added another $20 billion in domestic spending.

The extras included $10 billion that would go to states to help them prevent layoffs of teachers.

So back to the Senate it went.

And last week, the Senate played its latest ping-pong shot, by chopping off that extra $20 billion and sending the House the same bill that Senators had approved back in May.

Now, the House will have to figure out whether to just accept that, or make some changes and throw those back at the Senate, in a game of legislative chicken between the two chambers.

Meanwhile, Pentagon leaders have been saying for weeks that they need the extra money to pay for a variety of costs associated with the Afghan War, or else they will have to shift resources from other programs to the Afghan theater.

Some think the House will just accept the Senate bill and be done with it.

Others wonder if the House will make a couple of changes and then leave town until after Labor Day, essentially forcing the Senate to blink, and accept the House version.

Some Inside Legislative Baseball for you on this Tuesday.