President Bush yesterday closed ranks with House Republican leaders in opposition to Democratic spending bills that surpass his requested amounts, during a meeting at the White House.
"They will support me on any veto of a bill that ... exceeds the spending limits that we collectively think is necessary for the good of the country," Mr. Bush said after meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney and a small group of Republicans in the Oval Office.
Several House Republican leaders delivered a letter signed by 147 Republicans — one more than is required to sustain a veto — vowing to uphold any veto of a spending bill that "contains wasteful or unnecessary spending."
"Republicans are standing united — with one another and with the White House — against wasteful and excessive spending by House Democrats and in support of middle-class families who are facing an ever-increasing tax burden," said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.
Democrats have crafted 12 appropriations bills that include $22 billion more in discretionary spending than Mr. Bush requested, and the president has threatened to veto nine of them.
House Republicans say the Democrats" federal budget adds billions of dollars in new authorized spending and would require massive tax increases to comply with recently passed pay-as-you-go budget rules.
Republicans also say the Democratic budget would undermine the president"s goal of balancing the budget by 2012.
Republicans are anxious to regain the mantle of fiscal responsibility, after a Republican-controlled Congress allowed Mr. Bush to increase military and domestic spending to record levels during his first six years in office, angering many conservative groups and supporters.
The president has never vetoed a bill for spending reasons, despite billions of dollars worth of pork-barrel spending, including the infamous $233 million "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska, which died after a public backlash.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, pointed out the Republicans" track record on spending.
"President Bush and congressional Republicans are putting on quite a show, trying to demonstrate a newfound interest in fiscal responsibility in a transparent attempt to score political points," Mr. Hoyer said.
Mr. Hoyer said that the Democratic budget "will make modest increases in key priorities while reaching balance in 2012." Three top priorities, he said, are increased college affordability, health care access and border security.
For Mr. Bush, the meeting was also an opportunity to strengthen his alliance with House Republicans in advance of a bruising immigration battle expected later this summer.
"It"s fair to say that House conservatives hold a different opinion of the Senate immigration bill than does our president," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican, who attended the meeting.
Mr. Boehner said immigration was not discussed at the meeting and dodged a question about the immigration bill"s future.