November 9, 2007

Bush Goes To 4-1 On Vetoes

As expected, Congress overrode George Bush's veto on a popular water-works appropriation bill that added over 50% in pork while in conference committee. Last night, the Senate overrode the veto 79-14, with two Democrats joining 12 Republicans in a vain attempt to stop runaway spending. In this case, the pork-barrel express had a bipartisan crew:

A year after Democrats won control of Capitol Hill, Congress delivered its clearest victory yet over President Bush yesterday, resoundingly overturning his veto of a $23 billion water resources measure -- the first veto override of Bush's presidency.

The 79 to 14 vote in the Senate was followed last night by final passage of a huge, $151 billion health, education and labor spending bill. House and Senate negotiators also reached agreement on a transportation and housing bill that increases spending on highway repair in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse and boosts foreclosure assistance in the midst of a housing crisis.

Moreover, the House unveiled a four-month, $50 billion Iraq war-funding bill that would give the president 60 days to present a plan to complete U.S. troop withdrawals by Dec. 15, 2008. The measure would limit the troops' mission to counterterrorism and the training of Iraqi forces and would extend a torture ban to the CIA.

In short, the long-awaited battle between Congress and Bush over federal spending and the size and reach of government is now on.

This is an especially defining moment for government waste and lack of fiscal responsibility. Congress essentially has declared that it recognizes no process for limitation of excessive spending. When the bill went to conference committee, each chamber had authorized spending within similar limits: $14 billion in the House, $15 billion in the Senate. Both exceeded what the White House proposed, but either would likely have received Bush's signature, given the relatively minor nature of the bill to the budget.

However, the conference committee completely ignored the will of its members in either chamber. They instead inflated the measure with billions of dollars in pet projects that had never come before the House or the Senate. The bill grew more than 50% from what either body had approved.

Did Congress object? Hardly. Instead of scolding the conferees for overstepping themselves and acting irresponsibly, both chambers approved of their machinations by overwhelming vote margins. Republicans and Democrats alike endorsed this end-around for profligate spending, and then defied Bush when he attempted to exercise a little fiscal discipline where Congress had abdicated.

The reaction on the floors of Congress was laughable. They complained that Bush had no problem spending money on the war in Iraq, but wouldn't approve of a bill that grew over 50% in conference. One might have expected at least a few members to point out that arguing over who gets to spend the most money hardly gives Congress much credibility. It's like watching spouses fight over spending by continually going to the mall.

Harry Reid extolled the value of legislatures while praising this veto override. He claimed that Bush had ignored Congress for seven years. If only we could ignore a Congress that refuses to exercise even a modicum of discipline on its spending processes. Under Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, and unfortunately with the participation of Republicans in this instance, the legislative branch has proven itself an undisciplined compulsive-spending machine. Their override of this veto shows that a massive House- and Senate-cleansing is in order.


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