November 7, 2007

Democrats Hold Veteran Spending Hostage

House Democrats will try to keep George Bush from vetoing their expanded domestic spending by tying the noncontroversial Veterans Administration spending to it. The attempt to extort approval for Democratic budget expansion has already started to backfire, as Republicans moderates have abandoned a budget they may have otherwise supported -- and the Senate will undo their work in any case:

Congressional Democrats stumbled ahead Tuesday with a plan lumping the popular budget for veterans programs with a health and education bill that President Bush has promised to veto.

House Democratic leaders slated a vote on the House-Senate compromise bill for Tuesday night in an apparent attempt to use the politically untouchable veterans budget to increase the vote tally for the health and education funding bill, a top Democratic priority that fell just short of a veto-proof margin this summer.

But if anything, the power play solidified GOP opposition to the bill. And the plan was certain to unravel in the Senate, where Republicans were poised to use the rules to cleave the measure in two, setting the health and education bill on course to be vetoed by Bush without the veterans' money attached.

At the same time, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., acknowledged that Congress would not pass the Veterans Affairs budget into law before Monday's Veterans Day holiday as demanded by Republicans.

Every day that the Democratic-controlled Congress fails to generate a budget bill sets a new modern record for failure. Fiscal year 2008 started on October 1st. The last Congress to wait this long to submit the first appropriation of its budget was in 1987, also run by Democrats under a Republican President.

In an effort to prove they can outspend the Republicans of the last few years, the Democrats have proposed inflated budgets in almost every area of the federal government. They have, in a strange way, done Bush and the Republicans a favor by allowing them to become born-again fiscal conservatives. Mindful of the advantage they have given the GOP, they want to extort White House approval by forcing Bush to veto veterans' spending, expecting to use it as an election issue in 2008.

Voters have discovered this game, however, and have begun to understand how it does little but add to their tab. Bush has already made clear that he will veto any excessive spending, feeling that fiscal control will sell better than extortion in the next election. He may welcome the opportunity to look tough on spending at this stage of his presidency; Bush certainly appears energized by the infighting over the budget so far this Congress.

Congress has managed to outrun Bush to the bottom of the approval ratings. Holding veteran spending hostage to their pork-barrel efforts and free-spending policies will only substantiate the common judgment of their fecklessness. The Senate will act a little more wisely than the House when this bill comes to them.


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