President Bush Tuesday vetoed the $151 billion Labor-HHS appropriations bill, launching what is sure to be a contentious and possibly lengthy appropriations standoff with Congress. The president rejected the measure at the White House before departing for New Albany, Ind., where he slammed Democrats for what he described as their eagerness to tax and spend.
In a speech brimming with fiery rhetoric and no sign of compromise, the president framed his rejection of the legislation as a stand against tax increases that will be needed to fund spending.
"I hope the leaders of Congress will cooperate and send me reasonable spending bills that I can sign," Bush said. "But if they insist on trying to raise taxes on the American people, I will not hesitate to use my veto pen to stop them."
After allowing that Democrats are "good people," the president charged them with trusting "the judgment of the federal government" over the "judgment of people" and said they were spending "like a teenager with a new credit card." He specifically rejected Congress' attempt to raise the tobacco tax to pay for increases in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, saying raising taxes was "habit forming" and would soon be applied to other areas.
"If you find a bill that doesn't have a tax increase, just wait awhile; they'll put one in there," he said. Bush did sign the Defense appropriations bill, even though he said that it, too, contained unnecessary spending. That measure also included a continuing resolution funding the government until Dec. 14.
The White House and Democrats are $22 billion apart on overall discretionary spending. Bush said the legislation he vetoed today is nearly $10 billion too high. Democrats stuck to their message that Bush is willing to spend huge sums on military operations while limiting funding for domestic programs.
"The President again vetoed a bipartisan and fiscally responsible bill that addresses the priorities of the American people," House Speaker Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. "At the same time, President Bush and his congressional allies demand hundreds of billions of dollars for the war in Iraq -- none of it paid for."
Nevertheless, Pelosi struck a conciliatory tone. "We believe our differences are not so great that compromise cannot be reached," she said. House Appropriations Chairman Obey, D-Wis., called Bush's veto "pure politics." Bush also blasted Democrats for failing to approve a temporary alternative minimum tax fix, saying Congress should eliminate tax increases in legislation currently moving. He warned that if an AMT patch is not approved by Thanksgiving, refunds could be delayed next year.
Bush also repeated that Congress should not go home for Christmas until it approves a supplemental spending bill for the war in Iraq.