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Veto threats up with Democratic Congress
President Bush has issued veto threats against 48 bills since Democrats took charge of Congress eight months ago, in stark contrast to the eight such threats all last year when Republicans controlled Capitol Hill.
Among the most prominent of his threats are Mr. Bush’s promise to veto nine of the 12 congressional spending bills, because they cost a combined $22 billion more than what he requested in the federal budget.
The showdown over spending with Democrats is part of the Bush administration’s strategy to shore up support among the GOP base and to help the Republican Party try to regain momentum after losing both houses of Congress last fall.
“Mr. Bush is trying to reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility for Republicans. While congressional Republicans may desert him on other issues, limiting public spending has broad appeal,” said John Fortier, research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Mary Matalin, a former adviser to the president, said “conservatives’ raison d’etre is lower spending.”
She noted that as the federal deficit continues to shrink and progress is reported from the president’s troop surge in Iraq, those things are “juxtaposed with the Democrats’ lack of progress on anything.”
Mr. Bush may have begun to reap benefits from his strategy this week, as his approval rating inched up for the first time in months.
Democrats, however, said the veto threats are a transparent political strategy that shows that the Bush administration is “hemorrhaging.”
“The old rule of politics applies here: Any time you’re trying to solidify your base means you’ve got bigger problems than anybody imagined,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.
“In a trillion-dollar economy, [$22 billion] really doesn’t amount to much,” Mr. Manley said, adding that the differences “could be negotiated.”
“If only he had brought out the veto pen a few more times in the past,” said one aide to a ranking House Republican.
Mr. Bush used his veto power sparingly during his more than 6½ years in office. His first veto did not come until last summer, when he rejected a law to expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Mr. Bush vetoed two more bills this year, sending back a war-funding bill with a timeline for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and again rejecting the funding of embryonic stem-cell research.
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
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