USA Today, November 14, 2007: Bush signs defense bill but balks at cost of domestic plan

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By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON In two moves that crystallized the partisan debate over spending that has delayed the 2008 budget, President Bush on Tuesday signed a Pentagon spending bill and vetoed a domestic measure that would have increased aid for health care, education and job training.

“This bill spends too much,” Bush said in his veto message. Press secretary Dana Perino said he signed it “right before he put on his raincoat” for a trip to Indiana, where he resumed his attack on Democrats who control Congress.

“The majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it’s acting like a teenager with a new credit card,” Bush told leaders of One Southern Indiana, a local economic council representing about 1,100 small businesses. He criticized more than 2,200 proposed earmarks in the health care bill, including “a prison museum, a sailing school taught aboard a catamaran, and a ‘Portuguese as a second language’ program.”

VIDEO:Bush challenges Congress

The $471 billion defense measure became the first of 12 appropriations bills to be signed into law. It included a second continuation of 2007 spending levels for other programs until Dec. 14, keeping the government afloat for another month but without clear guidance on 2008 priorities.

The $606 billion domestic spending bill, which includes $151 billion in discretionary spending, became the first to be vetoed; Bush has threatened to veto nearly all the others for exceeding his proposed spending levels. So far, Democrats lack the votes needed to override those vetoes.

Both sides see the spending battle as politically beneficial, which is why it shows no sign of abating anytime soon. Bush’s vetoes are forcing Democrats to make minor concessions while reinforcing the Republicans’ image as guardians of the public purse. Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, want to highlight their efforts to boost spending on popular programs.

“This bill contains critical funding for education, for health care, for lifesaving medical research, for job training, for mine safety, for homeless veterans,” said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “What a cavalier and heartless act by a president who claims to represent all of the people.”

Liberal interest groups allied with Democrats unveiled radio ads to be broadcast in the districts of 10 House Republicans today. Groups ranging from the American Cancer Society to the American Heart Association also criticized the veto.

Bush argued that the bill maintained funding for ineffective and duplicative programs, including 56 that he wants to terminate. He also said it would necessitate new taxes to pay for the additional spending.

“They’re coming at you with new taxes, and I’m going to do everything in my power to stop them,” he said.

While Pelosi and Reid asked on Saturday for direct talks, Bush has refused to negotiate unless they agree to his lower spending level. “So far, they have not shown a willingness to do that,” said deputy White House budget director Stephen McMillin.

Bush also urged Congress to approve $190 billion in new funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by Christmas. House Democratic leaders have said they will not act until early next year. Instead, Pelosi plans to offer a $50 billion “bridge fund” with a timetable for troop withdrawal.

“That’s not going to work,” Bush said. “We don’t need members of Congress telling our military commanders what to do. “

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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