White House Official Raises Possibility of Budget Veto
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman on Friday told congressional leaders he would recommend vetoes of fiscal year 2008 appropriations bills in the event that they exceed the amount requested by President Bush, CQ Today reports (Clarke, CQ Today, 5/11).
The Senate on March 23 voted 52-47 to approve a $2.9 trillion FY 2008 budget resolution that includes funds for an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, as well as billions of dollars in additional funds for health care for veterans and other domestic programs. The Senate budget resolution, which includes about $18 billion more for domestic discretionary spending in FY 2008 than Bush has requested, would provide $15 billion over five years for an expansion of SCHIP.
The Senate budget resolution includes $3.5 billion more than Bush has requested for health care for veterans. In addition, the Senate budget resolution includes 25 "reserve funds" to provide additional spending for health care and other domestic programs, provided that the costs are offset by spending reductions in other areas or new revenue (California Healthline, 3/26).
The House on March 29 voted 216-210 to approve a FY 2008 budget resolution that would require Congress to offset increased funds for Medicare, SCHIP and other health care programs with tax increases or spending reductions. The House budget resolution exceeds the amount Bush requested for discretionary spending by more than $24 billion and exceeds the amount of the Senate budget resolution by about $7 billion (California Healthline, 3/30).
Senate and House conferees have begun negotiations on the overall discretionary spending cap for FY 2008 appropriations bills. The Senate and House both plan to vote on a final budget resolution this week (Cohn, CongressDaily, 5/11).
Portman in a letter dated May 11 to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate and House budget committees said, "I will recommend the president veto any appropriations bill that exceeds his request until Congress demonstrates a sustainable path that keeps discretionary spending within the president's top line of $933 billion" (CQ Today, 5/11). Portman added, "The administration does not believe that the first step on a path to a balanced budget should be a substantial increase in federal spending, yet that is precisely what is called for by the Democrats' budget plan."
Portman also said that the Senate and House budget resolutions do not take adequate steps to "address the unsustainable growth in entitlement spending."
Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) in a statement said, "After racking up more than $3 trillion of new debt under its watch, the Bush administration now pretends to be fiscally disciplined by threatening to veto appropriations bills because they include investments in priorities like education and veterans' health care." Conrad added, "It is time for the administration to work with Congress instead of stubbornly insisting on everything being done its way" (Montgomery, Washington Post, 5/12).
However, Senate Republican Conference Chair John Kyl (Ariz.) and other conservative Republicans "cheered Portman's letter," CongressDaily reports (Cohn, CongressDaily, 5/11).
In other budget news, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday said he plans to move on a new version of a supplemental appropriations bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (Kivlan, CongressDaily, 5/11).
Bush on May 1 vetoed an earlier version of the bill -- which included funds for SCHIP, health care for veterans and flu pandemic preparedness -- because of opposition to provisions that called for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq by March 2008, as well as the inclusion of funds for nonmilitary programs. The House on May 2 failed to override the veto.
The House on Thursday voted 221-205 to approve a new version of the legislation that includes funds for SCHIP and other health care programs (California Healthline, 5/11).
After a meeting on Friday with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Reid said that a "bipartisan consensus was emerging" on funds for military programs and related provisions in the new Senate version of the bill.
Reid spokesperson Jim Manley said that Reid "needs to confer" with the Senate Appropriations Committee but "expects to move as quickly as possible" on the legislation (Kivlan, CongressDaily, 5/11).