- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The House began debate yesterday on the first of 12 appropriations bills, under a threat from President Bush to veto any spending bill that exceeds his budget requests.

The 2008 Homeland Security Department spending bill, which was headed for approval late yesterday, would provide more than $36 billion for fiscal 2008 — about $2.5 billion more than last year and $2 billion more than the president”s request.

Democrats said the increase is necessary because Republicans have neglected spending on domestic issues for years.

“Over the last six years, President Bush and the rubber-stamp Republican Congress shortchanged America”s priorities and neglected our country”s most pressing needs,” said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

“Even as federal spending increased, Republicans failed to fully invest in America”s future.”

The proposed legislation also includes $8.8 billion for U.S. Customs and Border Protection — $797 million more than last year and $50 million more than the president”s budget — and $6.6 billion for the Transportation Security Administration — $307 million more than last year and $219 million more than Mr. Bush“s request.

“This bill and the Democrats” budget would lead to spending and tax increases that put economic growth and a balanced budget at risk,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in its official statement on the legislation.

Only four of the 12 appropriations bills scheduled for debate during the next several weeks offer lower spending caps than what Mr. Bush has proposed for 2008.

Several Republicans offered amendments to the bill to reduce spending.

Republicans spent much of their debate time on the House floor yesterday arguing over a new Democratic rule that allows earmarks — money designated for a special purpose or project and referred to as “pork-barrel” spending — to be inserted into the spending bills only during Senate-House conferences when differences between measures passed in each chamber are resolved.

“Republicans will fight at every opportunity to force the majority to restore the reforms we enacted last year which gave members the right to challenge individual earmarks on the House floor,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio.

The House is scheduled to take up three other spending bills this week, for military construction and veterans affairs, energy and water appropriations, and interior and the environment.