Every year, the Pentagon asks for money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the understanding that it won't be enough and that Congress will have to give even more money before the year is out. And every year Congress waits until the very last minute to give out the additional money.
This year is no different. Despite the fact that Congress gave the administration $130 billion to last them until the fiscal year ends in October, that didn't include the $33 billion needed for President Obama's Afghanistan surge or the $2.8 billion that's now needed to help Haiti recover from its earthquake.
Congressional Quarterly, Congress' Bible on all things legislative, has been writing for weeks that the new supplemental war-funding bill was imminent, but as of yet, no bill has surfaced. And the Senate's top appropriator, war veteran Daniel K. Inouye, D-HI, is getting impatient.
The Cable caught up with Inouye on the subway linking the Capitol with the Senate office buildings and asked him when Congress would get going on the war bill.
"That's what I've been asking!" Inouye said, noting that the House side has to go first and then the Senate can follow.
So what's going on in the House? Well, for one thing, the man who usually in charge of the bill, John Murtha, died unexpectedly in February. Murtha was famous for larding up the supplemental bills with other military items he couldn't fit into the Pentagon's $500 billion-plus regular budget.
That leaves the work to the subcommittee staff, led by Rep. Norm Dicks, D-WA, and the full appropriations staff led by Rep. David Obey, D-WI.
"The Committee is working to put the package together," said Ellis Brachman, Obey's spokesman, who declined to give any specific deadline.
"No date set yet but it will be soon," said one House leadership aide. "We are committed to getting it done for our troops within the necessary time frame," another House leadership aide said.
What's that timeframe? Well, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, had said previously he wanted to get it done by the Memorial Day congressional recess. But that isn't likely.
House Democratic leadership likes to use the war funding bills to tidy up any other loose ends in funding because the bill is on the credit card and doesn't count against budget statistics. Republican lawmakers have already promised to fight any attempts this year to add non-war related items to the bill.
And the anti-war Democrats like Rep. Jim McGovern, D-MA, could once again oppose the bill because it doesn't specifically outline the end of the war scenario. That would force, once again, the Democratic leadership to get GOP support to pass the measure.
So when does Inouye want to see the bill acted on, we asked him?
"Yesterday," he said.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.