Bush says he will veto 'three-bill pileup'

Using some of the sharpest rhetoric of his presidency, President Bush attacked congressional Democrats Tuesday on an array of fronts, charging them with wasting time while seeking to raise taxes and overspend.

Bush, who spoke following a White House meeting with House Republicans, derided as a "cynical political strategy" a move being considered to combine the Defense and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs spending bills with a Labor-Health and Human Services measure that Bush says is overpriced.

"I will veto such a three-bill pileup," Bush declared while flanked by House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo. A decision to combine the bills has not been made, although Democratic leaders are leaning in that direction.

This is the second week in a row the president has bashed Congress and he repeated his demand that Congress pass a "clean" Military Construction-VA Appropriations bill by Veterans Day.

Bush pointed to tax increases included in several measures, charging Democrats "haven't seen a bill they could not solve without shoving a tax hike into it." Proposed spending, he added, "is skyrocketing under their leadership." He noted that Congress has not completed any fiscal 2008 appropriations bills and he charged that Democrats have wasted valuable time on "a constant stream of investigations" and futile votes to end the war.

In a statement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Congress had raised the minimum wage, overhauled ethics rules and implemented the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. She also asserted that congressional investigations had uncovered "billions of dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq."

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., argued that the Democrats' agenda has been obstructed by Republicans and Bush, and he asserted that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would still be serving if not for Democratic oversight. And he sought to highlight what Democrats view as Bush's deficit spending tendencies.

"He doesn't want anyone to pay for [federal spending] now," said Hoyer. "He wants to pay for it later."

Republicans emerged from the White House meeting reassured that Bush would not abandon them after the dust settles from the legislative shootouts to come. Some GOP lawmakers were angered by the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after the November 2006 elections, since it followed a White House push for their support of him.

"The most valuable thing to come out of this is for members to hear from the horse's mouth that they are not going to get the rug pulled out from under them on vetoes," said one senior Republican leadership aide.

Peter Cohn contributed to this report.

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