- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

President Bush yesterday told Democrats he would veto the defense spending bill if they attached too much pork, and his spokesman warned that the Senate had enough Republican votes to sustain the veto.
"The president made it as plain as day that if the Senate were to send the president a bill that complicates our nation's defense needs, he will veto it," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
"And by complicate, he means if they try to attach extra spending beyond what has already been promised and agreed to by the Congress to a Defense Department appropriations bill at a time of war," he added. "America is at war, and the war should not be fought on last year's budget."
The White House pointed out that Congress had earmarked $40 billion in anti-terrorism spending since the September 11 attacks against America. With 94 percent of that money still unspent, Mr. Bush wants to wait until spring before considering additional expenditures.
"Terrorists don't run on a fiscal-year basis," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle countered in a press conference after meeting with Mr. Bush. "Terrorists are operating all year long.
"We just think that it's such a compelling case, that sooner or later the administration's going to come to the realization that we can't ignore these needs," he added.
The sparring over a presidential veto threat came a day after House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Mr. Bush was learning what Democrats meant by "bipartisanship" and called on the president to use his veto power.
"He's beginning to understand how one-sided their interpretation of bipartisanship is," Mr. Armey said during a breakfast meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
"The president is a generous fellow, but he's also a man whose patience can be drawn very thin. In my estimation, he is feeling, 'Enough already. I have reached out, reached out, reached out, and you guys keep biting the hand that reaches for you.' So I think he's ready to draw some lines," the Texas Republican said.
Mr. Daschle, of South Dakota, told Mr. Bush at yesterday's breakfast meeting that Democrats would try to approve an extra $15 billion as the Senate took up the defense spending bill today.
Mr. Daschle said Democrats have been willing to compromise, reducing their amendment from $30 billion to $15 billion, and abandoning their demand that the spending be linked with an economic-stimulus bill.
"I think all the movement has been on the Democratic side," Mr. Daschle said. "There has to be some movement on the Republican side."
Meanwhile, 39 Senate Republicans yesterday sent Mr. Bush a letter promising to sustain his veto on any new emergency spending this year. Republicans would need 41 votes to defeat the defense spending bill with the additional $15 billion on the floor. If the bill is approved and vetoed, Republicans will need just 34 votes to sustain the veto.
Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, said the Republicans will have the votes.
"The president has made it very, very clear," Mr. Santorum said. "He believes he has the money he needs to prosecute the war and defend this country."
Mr. Santorum said the showdown is part of the Democrats' strategy, outlined in a recent memo by consultants James Carville, Robert Shrum and Stanley Greenberg, to support Mr. Bush in the war and attack his economic policies.
"The Democrats believe they can go after the president on domestic issues," Mr. Santorum said. "They will always outbid us they're always willing to spend more money. We do not have a bottomless pit of money here to spend."
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, said "it's not a bidding matter with me." He said protecting Americans from anthrax and other terrorist attacks is "our basic responsibility."
But the White House, emboldened by the president's soaring approval ratings, appeared willing to make a stand on the veto, confident the public would back Mr. Bush's decision. The administration's strategy involves portraying big-spending Democrats as interfering with the war effort and therefore almost unpatriotic.
"The president feels so strongly that Congress should send to him a defense appropriation bill that has the funding increases for the Pentagon to fight a war," Mr. Fleischer said. "That bill should not get bogged down by other issues beyond what already has been agreed to by the Congress."
He cited the letter showing "a sufficient number of senators to sustain any presidential veto."
"So why on earth would the Senate go through this exercise when it clearly won't go anywhere, other than to delay America's national defense needs?" he said.
Mr. Byrd insisted the extra expenditures were aimed at protecting America's homeland, not scoring political points.
"God may strike me dead right on this spot if I were offering this amendment for political purposes," the 84-year-old senator told reporters.

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