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Bush, Dems spar as vote on stopgap spending bill nears

The House is scheduled to take up a short-term continuing resolution Wednesday that would fund government programs until mid-November.

With Sunday's end of the fiscal year approaching, President Bush on Monday called on Congress to pass a clean continuing resolution and pledged to veto an omnibus spending bill if it contains pork-barrel projects.

"The principle should be that there'd be no new spending -- no new policies, no new projects -- unless the president and Congress agree in advance on a specific item," Bush said at the White House.

The House is scheduled to take up a short-term continuing resolution Wednesday that would fund government programs until mid-November, when Congress is set to leave for the year. At some point before adjourning, lawmakers would have to either approve the remaining individual appropriations bills or send Bush an omnibus bill covering all spending.

Bush said he favored Congress taking up each bill separately. "If they think that by waiting until just before they leave for the year to send me a bill that is way over budget and thicker than a phone book, [if] they think that's going to force me to sign it, it's not," Bush said.

For the first time in the budget debate, Bush publicly used the term "government shutdown," but only to say that the one that occurred in 1995 was disruptive and to note that no Congress has allowed it to happen since. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino also used the term but added, "We don't want to see that happen ... I don't think Congress wants to see that happen."

Bush repeated his criticism of Congress for devising a budget plan that is about $22 billion costlier than the one he requested, saying the difference "is larger than the annual revenues of most Fortune 500 companies."

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., said Bush's remarks might be harming the prospects of coming to an agreement on the budget by seeking to "manufacture" a disagreement over the continuing resolution.

"President Bush's statement a few minutes ago telling the Congress to pass a clean continuing resolution is the equivalent of the rooster claiming credit for the sunrise," Obey said. "The fact is that I met with the president's budget director last week and informed him at that time that we intended to pass a clean CR. I asked him if he would let me know if the administration had any exceptions that they wanted included and they sent us over a dozen changes that they wanted."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., accused Bush of "itching to veto appropriations bills for the 2008 fiscal year to re-establish his bona-fides with conservative groups." Many conservatives have been critical of the president for what they see as his excessive spending.

Christian Bourge contributed to this report.