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Democrats Bow to Bush's Demands in House Spending Bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), shown in May, recently said that the domestic spending bill being negotiated may show concessions to the White House, but that it will also reflect Democratic priorities, such as increased funding for children's health programs and medical research.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), shown in May, recently said that the domestic spending bill being negotiated may show concessions to the White House, but that it will also reflect Democratic priorities, such as increased funding for children's health programs and medical research. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

White House spokesman Tony Fratto emphasized last night, "The White House is not part of any deal, full stop."

The veto threats in the face of Democratic compromises left party lawmakers in disbelief. Because of Bush's intransigence, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said that "we're going to have some horrific decisions to make over the next week."

Democratic leaders tried to put the best face on their surrender on domestic spending levels, promising that the final bill will reflect their priorities, if not their preferred funding -- "the president's number, our priorities," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). She noted that the bill would increase funding for children's health programs, nutrition and medical research at the National Institutes of Health.

Democrats will also increase spending on heating assistance for the poor, health care for veterans, local law enforcement and border security, Democratic leadership aides said last night.

To meet those goals, staff members on the House Appropriations Committee will probably target the president's "Millennium Challenge" international aid program, his abstinence-education efforts and the scandal-plagued "Reading First" education effort.

Senate Republicans will seek to add as much as $70 billion in war funding to the bill, without strings on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq attached. Pelosi indicated she would vote against the final bill if such funds are included but made clear that Democrats are ready to make the concessions needed to avoid a veto.

"This is a negotiation about a bill that will be signed by the president," she said.

The retooled version of the energy bill still includes higher standards for motor vehicle and appliance efficiency, as well as a requirement for vastly expanded use of ethanol and other biofuels. The tax package would offset expanded energy conservation incentives by trimming tax breaks and depreciation allowances for the biggest oil firms.

The House AMT bill would prevent 21 million middle-income American households from being hit with a tax increase that could average $2,000 per family from a levy designed in 1969 to target only the super-rich. The proposal would also increase the number of low-income families that could benefit from a refundable tax credit for children.

The plan's outlook in the Senate is not good. The ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Jim McCrery (La.), called it "dead on arrival."

"What we are watching is a Kabuki dance," he said. "The Senate made it clear, with a bipartisan 88 to 5 vote last Thursday, that it will pass an AMT patch without unnecessary tax increases." Bush also opposes the House measure.

Staff writer Jeffrey H. Birnbaum contributed to this report.


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