Bush Threatens To Veto Combined Appropriations Bill
President Bush on Tuesday said he would veto a more than $700 billion package under consideration by Democrats that includes the fiscal year 2008 Defense (HR 3222), Labor-HHS-Education (HR 3043) and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (HR 2642) appropriations bills, The Hill reports (Soraghan et al., The Hill, 10/31).
The package includes about 70% of the total $955 billion in discretionary spending that Democrats seek for FY 2008. Bush has threatened to veto the Labor-HHS-Education bill because the legislation exceeds his request for discretionary spending by $9 billion but has not threatened to veto the other two bills (California Healthline, 10/30).
Bush on Tuesday criticized the package as a "three-bill pileup" and asked Congress to pass the bills separately (The Hill, 10/31). In addition, he said, "It's hard to imagine a more cynical political strategy than trying to hold hostage funding for our troops in combat and our wounded warriors in order to extract $11 billion in additional social spending," adding, "I hope media reports about such a strategy are wrong" (Pulizzi, Wall Street Journal, 10/31).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, "Instead of criticizing Congress, the president's time would be better spent working in a bipartisan way to end this disastrous war in Iraq, keep our promises to our veterans by providing the largest veterans' health care investment in history and proving health care for 10 million children" (The Hill, 10/31).
House and Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday met to "sign off on a plan to combine" the three appropriations bills into one package, CongressDaily reports. A senior Democratic leadership aide said that the package "looks like the direction things are headed in," although Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate subcommittees with jurisdiction over the Military Construction-VA bill, as well as Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and some groups that represent veterans, said they would rather pass the legislation separately (Cohn, CongressDaily, 10/31).
According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House and Senate Democratic leaders have not made a final decision on the package (The Hill, 10/31). A conference committee will meet on Thursday to resolve differences in one or more of the appropriations bills passed by the House and Senate and will determine, "at that time, whether we're going to do individual bills," Reid said (Clarke, CQ Today, 10/30).