- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Of President Bush’s nearly 50 threats to Congress about vetoing legislation, only 17 contained explicit language that the president “will” wield his veto pen.

Nearly all of those “will veto” warnings were for legislation involving what Mr. Bush has called “the culture of life,” such as the stem-cell research bill that passed the House this month, suggesting the president may soon break his historically perfect veto-free record.

In Mr. Bush’s first term, his Office of Management and Budget issued 41 “Statements of Administration Policy” to Congress that expressed displeasure with legislation that might reach his desk and used the attention-getting word “veto,” several of them containing multiple warnings.

Most of those threats, however, were couched in language informing Congress that senior White House aides would “recommend” a veto — mostly because of concerns about how Congress was divvying out money to various government agencies.

The language was unequivocal, however, when it came to issues at the core of Mr. Bush’s conservative political philosophy and pro-life stance.

All but five of the 17 veto threats that could be characterized as serious — those that stated unequivocally that Mr. Bush would veto the legislation — dealt with congressional proposals to lift the sanctions on communist Cuba, change the so-called “Mexico City” policy that prohibits federal funds to be used abroad to promote or perform abortions, or expanding federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

“From this point going forward, I felt it best to stand on principle,” Mr. Bush said at his press conference last week. “Taxpayers’ money for the use of experimentation that would destroy life is a position that violates a principle of mine.

“I stand strong on that to the point where I’ll veto the bill as it now exists,” he said.

During the 108th Congress in 2003 and ‘04, Mr. Bush warned Congress four times not to send him a bill that would use any of the millions of dollars given to the United Nations Population Fund to support “coercive abortions.” He also warned that if a penny of that aid went to China — which has been condemned for its forced-abortion population control policy — he would veto the bill.

Each time, the objectionable language was removed and Mr. Bush signed the legislation.

On three other occasions, Congress looked poised to slip in a reversal of the Cuba embargo. After warning of a definite veto, the provisions were stripped from the bills and he signed them.

Michael Franc, vice president for government relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said it is not surprising that Mr. Bush is holding firm to this principles while showing a willingness to compromise with Congress on many of the more mundane issues that prompted the “soft veto threats.”

“There’s a lot more flexibility when it comes to the non-social issues,” Mr. Franc said. “The social issues, by definition, are hard to compromise. You are either sticking to your values, or you are not.”

Mr. Bush never vetoed a bill during his first four years in the White House, largely because Republicans controlled both houses of Congress for most of that time. Democrats held a one-vote majority in the Senate from mid-2001 until the 2002 midterm elections, when Republican gains canceled out the party defection of Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont.

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