June 18, 2007

The Upcoming Budget Wars

If you got bored with Beltway politics in the first six veto-free years of the Bush administration, buckle your seatbelts -- because the ride is about to get bumpy indeed. Congress has twelve appropriations bills coming to the White House, and three-quarters of them look ripe for vetoes, as President Bush has decided to try fiscal responsibility in his last two years in office:

Addressing a Republican fundraising dinner at the Washington Convention Center on Wednesday night, President Bush declared: "If the Democrats want to test us, that's why they give the president the veto. I'm looking forward to vetoing excessive spending, and I'm looking forward to having the United States Congress support my veto." That was more than blather for a political pep rally. Bush plans to veto the homeland security appropriations bill nearing final passage, followed by vetoes of eight more money bills sent him by the Democratic-controlled Congress.

That constitutes a veto onslaught of historic proportions from a president who did not reject a single bill during his first term. Of the 12 appropriations bills for fiscal 2008, only three will be signed by the president in the form shaped by the House. What's more, Bush correctly claimed that he has the House votes needed to sustain these vetoes. The unpopular president is taking the offensive on fiscal responsibility. After bowing to Republican demands on earmarks, Democratic leaders face a battle of the budget.

Bush refused to veto a single appropriation bill sent to him by the Republican-controlled Congresses during the first six years of his term. He threatened vetoes on a number of occasions, resulting in just enough pork-trimming to ensure his approval. After six years of profligacy, voters finally rebelled and sent Democrats to Congress instead -- apparently convinced that it would result in lower spending.

Surprise! They've turned out to be even more profligate than the Republicans. The Homeland Security bill is 14% higher than last year, thanks to the healthy dose of pork that David Obey tried mightily to hide in the conference report process. They've boosted the military construction-veterans affairs bill by 30%, but the President won't veto that one -- he doesn't want to be seen as taking money away from veterans, even though he proposed a 22% increase himself.

In fact, the only bill that the Democrats brought under the budget request was for financial services and general government. Bush plans to sign that bill and the appropriation for Congress itself. Otherwise, it will be an almost total pushback to the first Democratic Congress that Bush has had to encounter.

It's late in the game for Bush on out-of-control spending, but at least he's finally decided to fight. The battle over the budget should highlight the expansionist designs of the Democrats, who won the midterms in part over the irresponsibility of Republicans on spending. The remaining GOP caucus in the House has enough votes to uphold vetoes on spending, and they want to reinstate themselves as the good stewards of the public purse. Thanks to the Democratic overreach, they have that opportunity just five months into their minority status -- and can position themselves well for the 2008 elections.


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Comments (11)

Posted by Duane | June 18, 2007 7:39 AM

For all the complaining about Bush not being a budget hawk his first four years, let's not forget that our President entered office his first year with a new recession, Wall Street in utter collapse, 9/11/01 attacks and the bottom dropping out of the travel and tourism sector, etc. etc. Bush had a Republican Congress, yes, but if he had declared war on their spending rather than on the above-mentioned enemies/scenarios, I daresay he would not have succeeded on the really important battlefields of the GWOT, taxes, and the overall recovery of the economy. If Bush slammed his Republican Congress on spending, they would likely have refused to support him (or else may have given grudging, tepid support) on much of the rest of his agenda. Pick yur poison. Personally, I believe GWB picked correctly. And now that he's faced with a hostile Dem-controlled Congress, he's getting the veto pen out of the dusty closet.

As Rummy used to say, you go to war with the army you've got, not the one you wished you had.

Posted by CoRev | June 18, 2007 8:04 AM

Captain, Sir, you're buying into the news reports. They have actually been way wrong regarding

It's late in the game for Bush on out-of-control spending,...
Take a look at the Treasury reports you can see a stealth move to pay down the deficit for the past four years. His spending rate has been below the growth rate.

Unless the economy tanks and the Dems over spend, he will have a balanced budget in 2008. Amazed? Even if he doesn't reach equilibrium, his 2008 spending should bring the deficit down to double digits. It's all in the pen.

What is amazing is that this has been going on for four years and only a handful have caught on. Steve, at the Skeptical Optimist has been tracking this.

Posted by Continuum | June 18, 2007 8:54 AM


After 6 years on profligate spending, the Republicans finally discover Jesus.


Posted by David M | June 18, 2007 9:43 AM

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Posted by cliffhils | June 18, 2007 10:08 AM


After 6 years on profligate spending, the Republicans finally discover Jesus.

Typical." Not so fast,Continuum, the dems are far worse!!!

Posted by CoRev | June 18, 2007 11:07 AM

Continuum, you still don't get it. It has been four years. That is in his first term. Remember any events in the first term to make spending go up?

Nope. Probably not. There are no meds for BDS.

Posted by swabjockey05 | June 18, 2007 11:24 AM

Co Rev,

You mean like "No child left behind"...or "Free" medication...?

Posted by Continuum | June 18, 2007 11:32 AM

The lady doth protests too much, methinks.

Posted by apetrelli | June 18, 2007 3:44 PM

There is a deeper strategy at work, and a familiar one.

It is a resurrection of the sweeping Clinton vetoes of the fiscal 1996 budget, which the Democrats in the mainstream media famously blamed on the Republican Congress ("Gingrich shut down the government!")

Expect the MSM to argue that, this time, it is Bush shutting down the government.

But no matter. Using his veto power, Bush will push for 100% funding for the War in Iraq without timetables for withdrawal, and pit every single other priority of the Democrats against it until they cry uncle.

That's why the Democrats caving on the Supplemental meant a complete "betrayal" of the "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party". It was their one chance to end the war through the power of the purse, and they didn't have the cajones.

Posted by Monkei | June 18, 2007 8:13 PM

But no matter. Using his veto power, Bush will push for 100% funding for the War in Iraq without timetables for withdrawal, and pit every single other priority of the Democrats against it until they cry uncle.

This won't work as we get closer to the election cycle ... you will see more than enough GOP Senators and Congressman calling for timetables and withdrawals ... of course they will call it something else, but will have the same result. Timetables and withdrawals.

Posted by burt | June 18, 2007 9:37 PM

I am not sanguine: it is way to late to try to act responsibly. Bush has no creditability; he will be steamrollered. He probably will veto a few of the bills and may veto all nine. The Democrats may drop the equivalent of a useless bridge in Alaska or a useless highway to Lott's summer house; then bush will declare victory and sign. In any case, I don't think he cares anymore about spending than he does about border security.