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Friday, May 12, 2006

White House Waffling on Veto Threat - Just As Predicted Here

Don't expect President Bush to veto the emergency supplemental appropriation bill for the military and hurricane recovery, even if it comes to him with funding intact at some level for pork barrel projects like the $700 million "Railroad to Nowhere."

As Tapscott's Copy Desk predicted here earlier this week, a "compromise" version of the bill first floated by aides to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has given the pork barrelers in Congress and the White House just what they needed - a political fig leaf in the form of an "across-the-board" cut of about 13 percent in the funding levels provided by the measure.

None of the billions of dollars worth of earmarked pork barrel projects - not one of which qualifies as an emergency need - would be removed from the bill, just reduced in terms of how many tax dollars will go for them this year. The House version of the bill contained no earmarks and House leaders have said they will not go along with the pork-stuffed Senate version.

Next year, the same politicians will be back for the 13 percent that appears slated to be cut this year in order to finese passage, avoid a confrontation between the House and Senate and give Bush a way out of his first-ever veto of a spending bill.

Here's the key graphs from a BNA report circulating on Capitol Hill today:

"Sen. Trent Lott, R-MS, who with [Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad] Cochran fended off an attempt by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, to strip the 'railroad to nowhere' project out of the bill, said he and others are working to protect such projects and trying to show appropriators that some projects in the bill will not require as large an outlay of funds in the coming year as some believe.
"Given the pressure to drop projects, Lott said an across-the-board cut in all programs covered by the bill would be his preference. 'That would suit me fine,' Lott told reporters.
"The White House criticized the $700 million project in its statement of administration of policy on the Senate bill. But a spokeswoman for Bush said May 11 that its inclusion in a final conference report would not in itself cause the president to veto the bill.

"'I believe that the veto threat was on the total amount,' spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters when asked if Bush would veto a bill that included the rail project."

So, the Washington politicians' smoke and mirrors game on earmarks and federal spending goes on as before - corrupt to the core.