Warning of vetoes, President Bush pushes back on Dems’ spending bills
By: Ben Feller AP writer
By BEN FELLER
Associated Press Writer
ROGERS, Ark. (AP) — President Bush admonished Congress on Monday for failing to send him a single spending bill yet, and warned lawmakers to trim their plans or face rejection.
“You’re fixin’ to see what they call a fiscal showdown in Washington,” Bush told a friendly audience in this northwest Arkansas community.
“The Congress gets to propose, and if it doesn’t meet needs as far as I’m concerned, I get to veto,” Bush said. “That’s precisely what I intend to do.”
The budget year began Oct. 1, and federal agencies are operating on a stopgap bill for now. Congress has not yet agreed on the 12 spending bills that keep the government running.
“Congress needs to be responsible with your money and they need to pass these appropriations bills — one at a time,” Bush said, roaming the stage. “And then we can work together to see whether or not they make fiscal sense for the United States.”
Bush never vetoed a spending bill when his party ran Congress, but he’s dug in for a challenge now. He said the Democrats’ plans would raise taxes and prevent the nation from balancing the budget.
Conservative House Repub-licans appear to have the votes to sustain his promised vetoes.
For a president short on domestic victories, the White House sees fiscal discipline as a winning argument for Bush: a chance to label the opposition in tax-and-spend terms.
Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic majority leader in the House, said Bush was in no position to offer a lecture on fiscal responsibility. He accused Bush of engaging in a vain attempt to play to his party’s conservative base by promising vetoes.
“This is not a fight about spending,” Hoyer said. “It’s a fight about our priorities as a nation — whether we adequately fund education, medical research, Head Start, clean water programs and health care for our veterans and men and women in uniform.”
In the budget stalemate, Democrats are pressing to spend about $22 billion more on domestic programs than Bush wants.
Earlier, Bush toured the manufacturing plant of Stribling Packaging and Display, where cardboard boxes were rolling off the assembly lines. Bush said he wanted to remind people that the economy depends on such businesses to provide job opportunities.
“That’s what we want,” he said. “We want people working in America.”
He later stopped by the Whole Hog Cafe for lunch with business leaders. Bush loaded up a plate of barbecue and prodded photographers to hurry with their pictures so he could eat.
Bush has already vetoed legislation that would have raised spending on a popular children’s health insurance program $35 billion over five years. Bush has called for a $5 billion increase and he defended his position again in his remarks in Rogers, Ark.
Bush has offered to accept a bigger spending increase on the program to get a deal done with Democrats. But he and his aides won’t say how high he’s willing to go.
“We’re not going to negotiate through the media on this,” deputy press secretary Tony Fratto told reporters on Air Force One on Monday. “The goal has to be to get the policy right — what are the principles behind the policy — and then see what the numbers are.”
The House will vote to override his veto Thursday, but it is expected to fall short.
Taking questions from the crowd, Bush said there would be no return to a mandatory military draft under his watch.
“I don’t think we need a draft,” he said. “I am a strong supporter of the volunteer army.”
The last question came from a young girl who asked Bush when there would be a Republican woman in the Oval Office.
“I think a lady will be president and she’ll be a Republican,” Bush said, adding that he’s received good advice from women at home and around the Cabinet table. “I’ve seen women who are plenty capable of being president of the United States — capable of making the hard decisions and capable of making sure they stick to principle.”
Bush also raised some Republican campaign cash. He appeared at a private fundraiser in Memphis, Tenn., that generated up to $750,000 for Sen. Lamar Alexander’s re-election bid.
Alexander has been an outspoken Republican critic of Bush’s war strategy, but has stood with him in rejecting Democratic legislation that would mandate troop withdrawals. Other GOP candidates have kept their distance from Bush, yet Alexander sees advantages.
“It’s still the presidency of the United States, which is respected and admired and attractive to people,” said Tom Ingram, Alexander’s chief of staff and a campaign adviser. “The president still has a lot of appeal in Tennessee.”
Published in The Messenger 10.16.07