Bush on Roller-Coaster with GOP?

The trickle of veto threats by the White House is becoming a steady stream, even as the GOP's willingness to uphold such vetoes becomes more uncertain.

Friday's letter from OMB Director Rob Portman is a shot-across-the-bow to Congressional big spenders. The letter warns that if appropriations bills exceed Bush's budget (which is tens of billions lower than Congress' proposed budget), then the spending bills will be vetoed.

Even as Democrats predictably scoffed at the veto threat, there was a silence from Republican leaders about whether they would uphold vetoes based on the amount of spending. So far, his party has hung with Bush to keep troop-pullout deadlines out of bills, but 80 Republicans just last week voted to spend $7-billion extra for "emergency" assistance to agriculture, despite an explicit veto threat on that bill. Their desertions helped the bill to pass by a veto-proof margin.

When you couple this with last week's contentious White House visit by moderate Republicans, it's clear that everyone's resolve is being tested. One of the clear messages from voters in the 2006 election was that Congress needs more spending discipline. Even if most GOP Senators and Congressmen agree with Bush, it doesn't take very many Republican Members deserting on spending discipline to reinforce the disillusionment of the GOP base. That would be a major barrier to GOP efforts to recapture Congress.


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