Monday, June 18, 2007

Barnes & Novak: Bush Looking Forward to Vetoes

Both Fred Barnes and Bob Novak write on the expectation that the President will veto multiple spending bills this year. But Barnes nails down the achilles heel of the strategy, and one that may lead the President to give up the party's push to reclaim its reputation for stinginess. Novak first:

...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 year 2008, only three will be signed by the president in the form shaped by the House. What's more, Bush correctly claimed he has the one-third plus one House votes needed to sustain these vetoes...

Barnes on the other hand, identifies the point where the rubber meets the road:

Bush and congressional Republicans learned a painful lesson from the 2006 election: Excessive spending made them politically vulnerable. Now they are unified in turning the tables on Democrats and attacking them as big spenders. The Democratic budget has "given us an ability to recast the differences between the parties again," said a House Republican leader.

Credit for Bush's emergence as a hardliner is shared by two White House officials, chief of staff Josh Bolten and budget chief Rob Portman, a former Republican House member. Bolten was Portman's predecessor in the budget post, one that usually leads to a strong preference for limits on spending and austere budgets.

Still, Republicans worry Bush may split with them when the showdown comes between the White House and the Democrats. The president may be offered full funding of his defense budget in exchange for the higher domestic spending favored by Democrats. That's an offer Bush probably can't refuse.

The administration better be thinking about another way to find the few billion more needed to fully fund defense, because if they chicken out on vetoes after having raised expectations, there will be a lot of disappointment in the blathersphere. If they really want to regain their brand on fiscal responsibility, adherence to some of these spending limits is necessary, but not sufficient.

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