Bush Threatens To Veto High Discretionary Spending Bills
President Bush on Friday said that he will veto any fiscal year appropriations bill that exceeds his request for discretionary spending, CQ Today reports (Clarke, CQ Today, 2/8).
Bush last week released a $3.1 trillion FY 2009 budget request that would increase discretionary spending for health care and other domestic programs by less than 1%. Under the budget request, HHS discretionary spending would decrease by 2.1% (California Healthline, 2/5). The budget request includes $987.6 billion in discretionary spending.
During a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, Bush said, "For five years in a row, my budget requests have kept the growth of nonsecurity discretionary spending below the rate of inflation. I set clear spending limits, told the Congress I was going to ... veto bills if they exceeded those spending limits. The Democratically controlled Congress, at the end of last year, cut spending plans by billions of dollars." He said that in the event that Congress "sends me appropriations bills that exceed the reasonable limits I have set, I will veto the bills" (Cohn, CongressDaily, 2/8).
Office of Management and Budget Director Jim Nussle said that the budget request includes necessary reductions in spending for entitlement programs. In addition, he said that the budget proposal request would only reduce Medicare spending growth to 5% (Johnson, CongressDaily, 2/8).
In related news, Bush administration officials this week "will visit Capitol Hill for grillings by Democrats in control of key committees" to discuss the budget request, CongressDaily reports.
Nussle and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt separately will testify before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, and Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates will testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense on Wednesday and the Senate Budget Committee next week. In addition, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake will testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, VA and Related Agencies on Thursday (CongressDaily, 2/11).
The New York Times on Sunday examined how issues with the federal tax code are linked to the "bigger and more intractable problem" of the "soaring cost of old-age benefits -- especially for health care -- as the baby-boomer generation hits retirement." According to the Times, neither Democrats nor Republicans "have been candid about how they would reconcile their conflicting goals" for the tax code.
Republicans have argued that "Congress should not even try to make up the lost revenue from tax cuts and should focus instead on cutting spending," but, from 2001 to 2006, a "Republican-led Congress presided over big increases in government spending," such as the establishment of the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Meanwhile, Democrats "have been inconsistent themselves," as presidential candidates "have yet to explain how they would simultaneously pay" for changes to the tax code and "plans for universal health care" (Andrews, New York Times, 2/10).