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May 8, 2006
Examiner: Time To Veto

The Washington Examiner exhorts George Bush to take an unprecedented step for this administration and veto any emergency spending plan that includes $20 billion in pork. The editorial argues that the White House must establish its authority in spending now or lose it for the rest of the term:

President Bush has frequently portrayed many of his most controversial actions as necessary to protect executive branch prerogatives against usurpations of power by Congress. So it is especially curious that Bush has yet to use the most potent weapon the Founders gave occupants of the Oval Office against Congress: the veto.

If Bush is truly serious about protecting the powers and prerogatives of his office, he will set aside his veto reservations and slam-dunk the emergency funding bill if it comes to his desk in anything remotely resembling the form in which the Senate passed it last week. Bush originally asked for $92 billion to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and to assist with hurricane recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast. The House approved the bill substantially as Bush requested.

Things were completely different in the Senate, where the Old Bulls had a field day larding the measure up with nearly $20 billion worth of special-interest earmarks like $700 million for the “Railroad to Nowhere” in Mississippi. A valiant effort by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to remove a dozen of the worst earmarks failed and the thoroughly stuffed final measure was approved by a wide margin. Passage came within days of release of a highly credible survey that said stopping such spending sprees was the public’s top priority.

The actions of the Senate made clear their contempt for White House intervention. Trent Lott, who has made a dubious name for himself with his arrogant reaction to voter oversight on spending, scoffed at the notion of a presidential veto. The leadership of both caucuses demonstrated the same attitude by stocking their side of the joint conference committee with some of the most notorious porkers in the upper chamber. This does not bode well for the final product.

In fact, it presents Bush with a dilemma. Likely the House members of the conference will succeed in stripping some of the more egregious pork from the final bill, but how much? And how much is enough for Bush to accept? It is highly unlikely that the conference will produce the $92 billion that Bush requested. Can Bush veto anything above that number?

The nightmare scenario for Bush will be a bill that comes in at $100 billion or so, splitting the difference. If Congress passes something in that neighborhood, it will be difficult for Bush to veto it -- and just as difficult for him to sign it. Given his track record, it looks like Bush might try to find an excuse to sign off on the final bill. However, in this case, I think he's more likely to issue a veto in order to fire up the conservative base and get them enthusiastic in time for the November elections.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 8, 2006 7:14 AM

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