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February 13, 2004
Get-Tough Policy on Spending Starts With Roads

President Bush, stung by attacks on his spending from his base, drew a line in the sand yesterday when he threatened a veto for a highway-funding package that increased by half over the previous funding bill:

States would get an additional $100 billion over the next six years to build roads, repair bridges and improve public transit under a Senate-passed bill that the White House says is extravagant in an age of record deficits. The Senate voted 76-21 Thursday to approve the $318 billion surface transportation bill, a winning margin that would be enough to override a presidential veto threatened by the administration.

The current six-year highway spending bill, which expires at the end of this month, provided $218 billion.

Bush wants no more than $258 billion spent, which is still a 20% increase from the previous version; spread over six years, that averages close to the rate of inflation. With his base extremely unhappy with spending levels in the past three years, Bush needs to reign in Congress this year to demonstrate some fiscal discipline. But the margin of victory in the Senate is more than enough to override a presidential veto, making this an odd choice for Bush's first-ever veto, if it comes to that. A veto override would make Bush look weak at a time when he most needs to look presidential. He will probably conclude that in a year when he should pick his battles, a tactical retreat on highways may be his best course if he can't negotiate a compromise on the cost.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 13, 2004 5:50 AM

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