When the Republicans were in charge of Congress, President Bush was the most spendthrift chief executive since LBJ and the Great Society. But now that Democrats are in charge the president has decided it’s time to hold the line on spending.
He has promised to veto any spending bill that exceeds the amounts he asked for in the budget he submitted in February.
So far he’s off to an uneven start.
He threatened to veto the funding bill for the Iraq war. After some impassioned back and forth, the president got a bill free of timetables for withdrawal and the Democrats got $17 billion in additional funding that Bush hadn’t asked for.
Now the president is threatening to veto $37.4 billion for the Department of Homeland Security because it’s $2.1 billion more than he asked for. Even so, the House passed it but with enough dissenting votes to sustain a veto if Bush chooses to do so.
But the White House backed down on a threat to veto a bill that exceeds the president’s request by even more money than Homeland Security, about $4 billion.
That bill contained $64.7 billion funding, among other programs dear to legislators’ hearts like military construction, veterans’ health care. There might be times when it is possible to stint on care for wounded vets but right now isn’t one of them.
The bill passed late Friday, 409 to 2, and even the White House could see which way the wind was blowing on that one. Instead of a veto, there probably will even be a signing ceremony.