A payback budget

The White House killed via a veto threat a tentative congressional compromise on a $520 billion government spending bill because it contained $18 billion more than President Bush wanted on domestic programs and not enough on things he did want, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Democratic leadership was angry with the Republicans for backing out of the compromise and lining up with the president since much of that extra spending is for programs they support, plus the bill is loaded with home-district projects.

Especially angry was House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., who said if the White House and the Republicans truly wanted a bill that was within the president’s spending limits, he would produce one.

Obey would achieve the necessary savings by slashing the funds from the president’s priorities. He didn’t get into specifics, but speculation centered on abstinence education, NASA, nuclear weapons, assorted energy programs and high-tech border security.

He would also omit the war funding and let that battle be fought separately.

And the final indignity: Obey would jettison 9,500 individual earmarks, about 40 percent of them from Republicans, to save $9.5 billion.

Imagine that. A lean, pork-free federal budget with tight spending limits. Never going to happen, but it’s fun to contemplate.