Top House and Senate Democrats reached a tentative agreement on an almost $100 billion war funding bill Monday, including a generous new line of credit for the International Monetary Fund.
At the core of the measure is President Barack Obama’s war funding request, which included $76 billion for Pentagon operations. But the IMF funding is a top priority of Obama, who pledged the $100 billion line of credit at April’s G-20 summit in London to help developing countries deal with the troubled global economy.
The actual U.S. costs for the IMF contribution are far less — $5 billion is the Congressional Budget Office estimate — since the U.S. government is given interest-bearing assets in return.
Other details of the agreement between House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., and his Senate counterpart, Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, remain sketchy. The agreement was discussed briefly during a conference call of House Democratic leaders, a senior House Democratic aide said. The aide requested anonymity because the details were not yet released.
Some $80 million sought by Obama to close the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, remains out of the legislation. The Senate voted 90-6 last month to kill the money and the House never included it.
The House and Senate passed different versions of the bill last month. The official IMF request came too late for the House to act on it, but Obey said he opposed the money anyway despite a long history of supporting prior U.S. infusions to the fund. He said western European countries such as Germany should enact economic stimulus measures.
The IMF funding is sure to whip up opposition from conservative House Republicans and introduces at least some doubt about the final vote in the House since about 50 liberal Democrats oppose the war funding measure.
"Controversial, non-defense related issues — such as billions in IMF funding — should not be part of the final conference report," said Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.
The measure is expected to include eight huge C-17 cargo jets sought by the Boeing Co. and its allies on Capitol Hill such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.
The planes are on a list of program eliminations announced by Obama last month, but the C-17 program has tons of support on Capitol Hill, and the challenge to Obama was long expected.
Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran emerged as a big winner since the measure will include up to $489 million sought by him and homestate GOP colleague Roger Wicker to restore barrier islands along the Mississippi Gulf Coast destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and restore ecosystems such as salt marshes to protect the coast.
The funding for that and other pet projects came despite an admonition by Obama to keep the measure free of such parochial items commonly called "earmarks."