Thursday, August 2, 2007

Why Is President Bush So Willing to Veto Spending Bills All of a Sudden?

This President didn’t veto a single spending bill during the first six years of his presidency when the Republicans were in control. You might recall John McCain’s characterization of the Republican Congress when he said they spent money “like drunken sailors” all with the concurrence of President Bush.

Now, with the Democrats in control, the President seems more than ready to confront Congressional spending—he's threatened to veto about every Democratic domestic spending bill now under consideration in the Congress.

He's even threatened a veto of the bipartisan Senate SCHIP reauthorization bill when lots of Republicans are onside with the Democrats pleading with him to approve the S-CHIP deal and when there is no chance the Congress will seriously consider his alternatives like his health care income tax proposal.

What’s going on here?

A little history might be helpful.

You might remember the first news conference Bill Clinton had in the wake of the 1994 election in which the Republicans took control of the Congress. One statement Clinton made in response to questions about the big Republican victory and their bold plans to change the national agenda has lived on, “I am not irrelevant.”

President Bush now faces many of the same questions in the wake of last fall’s Democratic victory, particularly as Republican support for his Iraq policy is melting on Capitol Hill.

The National Review, a bastion of conservatism founded by William F. Buckley, Jr., and filled with articles written by leading conservatives, represents Bush’s political “base” if anything does.

That’s why a recent article in the opinion section of the Washington Post by Byron York, National Review’s White House correspondent and the author of “The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy,” is all the more notable.

The title of the article tells all, “Base to Bush: It’s Over.”

This from the article:

“So now the president has 18 months left in office, and they won’t be quiet ones. Absent the committed backing of his party, he will be forced to exercise power based not on his political clout but rather on the authority the Constitution gives the office of the president: He is commander in chief. He can veto bills. He can issue pardons. And that’s about it.”

I’d say that about sums it up for why Bush is now so veto happy—even when it’s Republicans he’s publicly arguing with.

The statement he’s making, particularly to Republicans in Congress, like Chuck Grassley and Orin Hatch who did the SCHIP deal with Democrats and all of those House members who voted with the Democrats on the Labor-HHS-Education bill is, “Wait a minute with all of your deals with this Democratic Congress, I’m still relevant!”

This is where it gets interesting.

Is Bush about to do what Clinton did to restore his presidency—willingly face off with a Congress recently taken over by the other party in a winner-take-all budget battle that included a government-shutdown?

With his support in the polls, from Republicans in Congress, and from his base in the country, at such low levels this President is standing almost alone on everything from Iraq to SCHIP and looks more intent than ever on pursuing a course he strongly believes in and has the Constitutional prerogatives to carry out.

Earlier Post: SCHIP Reauthorization and High Stakes Politics
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