A first! Congress overrides Bush veto!

The US Congress on Thursday overturned a veto by President George W. Bush for the first time in his presidency, giving approval to a bill on river and waterway projects.

“In overriding President Bush’s veto today, the Senate stood up for America’s waterways and water infrastructure,” said the influential Michigan Senator Carl Levin.

The Senate voted by 79 to 14 in favor of overturning Bush’s veto of the ambitious 23-billion dollar bill which the US leader believed was too costly.

The Senate vote followed a similar vote in the lower House of Representatives on Tuesday, when 361 US lawmakers voted in favor of overturning the veto to 54 against — more than the two-thirds majority required.

“This veto override sends an unmistakable message that Democrats both will continue to strengthen our environment and economy, and will refuse to allow President Bush to block America’s real priorities for partisan reasons,” said Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid.

“President Bush vetoed these critical priorities, just as he has repeatedly threatened to block other essential needs and repeatedly demonstrated how out of touch he is with the American people.”

The bill includes funding for hundreds of projects important to local communities.

They include projects to combat flood and coastal-storm damage as well as restore ecosystems, and help rebuild essential infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Katrina which devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.

The “Water Resources Development Act” will notably earmark some 3.5 billion dollars to Louisiana for work along the Mississippi River, badly damaged by Katrina, and some two billion dollars to help protect the Everglades marshland in Florida.

Other funds will be diverted to vital maintenance work on the Great Lakes, including a serious dredging backlog which has hampered transportation along a key waterway.

Bush has only used his power of veto five times during his seven-year presidency, most notably to stop legislation which would have tied funding to the war in Iraq to a timetable for withdrawing the troops, and to stop a bill which would have expanded health care for poor children.