- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2007

President Bush was right yesterday to prod the Democratic-controlled Congress to make much greater progress in funding the government. “The fiscal year begins in less than a week,” Mr. Bush told the business leaders. “Yet Congress has not sent a single appropriations bill to my desk, not one.”

While Republican-controlled Congresses routinely failed to pass the annual appropriations bills on time in recent years as both federal budget deficits and the national debt rose, the president rightly reminded Democrats that they pledged to act more responsibly and transparently on fiscal matters if voters installed them in power. The House did pass its versions of all 12 appropriations bills before leaving for August recess. Through last week, however, the full Senate has managed to approve its versions of only four fiscal 2008 spending bills.

Under normal budgeting procedures, conference committees are convened to resolve the differences in each of the 12 House and Senate appropriations bills. The final version of each spending bill emerging from conference must then be approved by both the House and Senate. Then the president must approve or veto each measure. If the president vetoes a bill, Congress can override his decision with a two-thirds-majority vote in each chamber. Mr. Bush has threatened to veto nine of the 12 appropriations bills making their way through Congress because the Democrats’ cumulative domestic discretionary spending exceeds the president’s proposed funding levels by about $22 billion.

In the certain event that Congress will fail to pass most of the 12 spending bills on time, the president has wisely and responsibly called upon Congress to “pass a clean continuing resolution” whereby “the government would continue to operate at current funding levels while the Congress works on these annual appropriations bills.” Rather than attempt to pass a last-minute omnibus spending bill spanning perhaps thousands of pages and lacking any degree of transparency, Mr. Bush urged Congress to “give itself extra time to complete the 12 annual spending bills and do them one at a time in a fiscally responsible way.”

While the president sounds more than reasonable in seeking to resolve spending disputes on a bill-by-bill basis, he must remember that his 2008-12 budget blueprint provides only $50 billion for the war on terror in 2009 (and nothing thereafter) and assumes more than $400 billion in tax increases from the alternative minimum tax. The Bush administration assumes another $900 billion in AMT revenues over the 2013-17 period, according to the Congressional Budget Office. We expect both Congress and the White House to act fiscally responsibly. It’s their duty.

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