- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2006

President Bush said yesterday he will not accept the emergency spending bill for war fighting and hurricane recovery that the Senate is expected to pass today, declaring that he will veto the legislation if the final House-Senate agreement goes beyond the limit he has set.

“The Congress needs to hear me loud and clear: If they spend more than $92.2 billion plus pandemic flu emergency funds, I will veto the bill,” Mr. Bush said in a speech to the American Council of Engineering Companies in Washington. “It’s important for there to be fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C., if we want to keep this economy strong.”

In a speech that brought the White House back to basic conservative themes of tax cuts and controlled spending, Mr. Bush called Democrats “consistently wrong” on the economy and laid out an extensive case for Republican economic accomplishments.

Mr. Bush has threatened to veto other bills but has never done so, in part, he says, because Congress has met his targets for spending.

The veto threat applies to additional spending, particularly $9 billion in hurricane relief above what the president requested, but not to the nearly $2 billion in border security funding that the Senate approved last week by shifting money from other parts of the bill. Mr. Bush also is willing to accept $2.3 billion to prepare for a flu pandemic.

Soon after the president issued his pledge, the Senate added still more spending and pushed the price tag of the bill near $109 billion — almost $17 billion higher than what Mr. Bush requested.

The bill started the week at $106.5 billion, but senators defied a White House request to offset $1.6 billion in additional funding for New Orleans levee repairs by making cuts elsewhere.

Yesterday, they added a $289 million amendment proposed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, to compensate anyone hurt by a pandemic flu vaccine. The amendment was adopted on a 53-46 vote.

Conservative senators have tried unsuccessfully to return the bill’s funding to the president’s level.

The House in March passed an emergency spending bill at a level below the president’s target.

Mr. Bush yesterday said there is a clear difference between the ways Republicans and Democrats handle the economy. He pointed to a series of remarks from “members of the loyal opposition … who objected to tax relief all along the way.”

“The Democrats’ record of pessimism has been consistent; it’s been consistently wrong,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush wants Congress to make permanent his 2001 and 2003 tax-cut packages, provisions of which will expire under budget rules.

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have agreed to a $70 billion package that would extend tax cuts on capital gains and dividends that are scheduled to expire in 2008.

“A tax increase would be disastrous for business, disastrous for families and disastrous for this economy,” Mr. Bush said.

Democrats call those tax cuts misguided and oppose an extension.

“The tax reconciliation bill giveaway on capital gains and dividends will do much more for Exxon Mobil board members than it will do for Exxon Mobil customers,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “America can certainly do better than that.”

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Stacie Paxton said Mr. Bush is making a “fiscally irresponsible” move at a time of massive deficits.

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