The House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote Thursday on a supplemental spending bill designed to continue funding combat operations in Afghanistan which also includes billions to save teaching jobs nationwide, start addressing cleanup due to the BP oil spill, and other domestic initiatives.
The legislation would provide more than $37.5 billion to support U.S. troops, conduct the war in Afghanistan, continue to draw down troops in Iraq, and provide non-military assistance and build up State Department operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, according a summary of the bill provided by the committee.
It also would fund a variety of domestic programs, too, including $24.7 billion to retain teachers, police officers and firefighters in their jobs nationwide. That includes $23 billion for an Education Jobs Fund to provide additional emergency support to local school districts to prevent impending layoffs, the appropriations committee says. Without the proposed funding, it is estimated that as many as 300,000 elementary and secondary teachers will be laid off in the coming year due to the ongoing poor economy.
“Providing all our children with a world-class education is critical to a sustainable economic recovery. Sadly, budget cuts across the country have threatened the jobs of hundreds of thousands of our teachers, guidance counselors, principals, cafeteria workers, librarians and more,” says Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who earlier this year authored separate legislation to direct federal aid to help local teaching jobs. “These job losses are devastating for students and our communities. We can’t allow a child’s education to become a casualty of what is happening in our economy.”
Miller says he appreciates Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, including the funds for teaching jobs in the war supplemental.
“I want to commend Chairman Obey for his vision and unwavering commitment to America’s students, teachers and families. Chairman Obey knows that with serious investments in education jobs, we can stave off a crisis in our nation’s schools by keeping teachers in the classrooms helping our children learn,” Miller adds.
The war funding bill also would direct $224 million toward the Gulf Coast oil spill. As much as 100,000 barrels of crude are leaking daily into the waters off Louisiana due to an explosion last month on an offshore drilling platform leased by BP.
The funding to deal with the massive oil spill includes: $83 million for unemployment assistance related to the oil spill and an oil spill relief employment program; allowance for the Coast Guard to receive advances from the Oil Spill Liability Trust fund; $7 million for oil spill response activities by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, including scientific investigations and sampling; $14 million to respond to economic impacts on fishermen; $10 million for Justice Department legal activities associated with the spill; $5 million for economic recovery planning; and $31 million for the Department of the Interior to conduct additional inspections and enforcement and to strengthen oversight and regulation and for the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a long-term risk study.
House appropriators emphasize that all costs directly related to the Gulf Coast oil spill must be reimbursed by the responsible parties, which includes BP. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been working legislatively to ensure those responsible, including BP, pay for the spill, which is expected to be larger even than the 1989 ExxonValdez spill.
The bill would fund a number of other federal programs, including health programs for veterans, college assistance for students, and more.
As with past war spending bills, the legislation becoming before the House panel Thursday would prohibit funds to be spent to establish a permanent base in Afghanistan or Iraq. Also, it would prohibit funds to support any training program if Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has received credible information that the unit to be trained has committed a gross violation of human rights, unless all necessary corrective steps have been taken, the appropriations committee says.
The bill also would prohibit funds for activities that would violate laws or regulations to implement the U.N. Convention Against Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the panel adds.
If approved by the House Appropriations Committee, it would go to the full House for a vote.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.