He Who Knows and Knows Not That He Knows Is Our Attorney General
Tom Grubisich Is One Unhappy Camper

Stan Collender on the Latest Bush Derangement

Stan Collender writes:

The Bush administration signaled last week that it was going to war with Congress over the FY08 appropriations. This is a huge political and budget blunder.... The administration revealed its plan through a letter from Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman, who said the amount of spending in the budget resolution... was too high and that all appropriations would, therefore, be vetoed.... Portman's letter [makes a fuss over]... a virtually insignificant difference -- about seven-tenths of 1 percent of the total amount of the federal government's projected spending in FY08. This increase will have no appreciable impact on the U.S. economy, interest rates or government borrowing....

Portman's letter deals with a poorly understood part of the congressional budget process. Once an overall [budget resolution] spending limit is agreed to, only the specific appropriation that exceeds the cap actually violates the limit. Even if all of the other appropriations that come before it had higher-than-budgeted spending and the last bill is less than expected, the bill responsible for exceeding the cap generally is the one subject to sanctions.

Over the past six years, the Republican-controlled Congress dealt with the politics of this rule by making sure the Pentagon and Homeland Security appropriations were considered first.... This year, the White House is worried about... the FY08 Pentagon appropriation will be the last one considered by Congress.... [and] will... cause [Bush's desired] cap to be exceeded.

The White House obviously decided it didn't want to wait for the Pentagon appropriation before talking about excessive spending.... That's why the Bush administration had Portman send the letter saying the president would veto every appropriation if the budget resolution [was not to his liking].... This may work well in theory, but the White House cannot possibly come out on top in this situation. The strategy outlined in Portman's letter assumes House and Senate Republicans will always back the White House and vote to sustain the president's veto.... [But] bills providing additional funds for Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other veterans programs, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, agriculture and Katrina relief could be among the first to be adopted and sent to the president. It will be hard, perhaps even impossible, for Republicans to oppose these appropriations.

This will create enormous problems for the White House. If the president vetoes these bills and one or more are overridden, the administration's influence on congressional Republicans will be seen to have hit rock bottom. On the other hand, not vetoing an appropriation after the Portman letter guaranteed it would happen will make the president's resolve look weak and raise questions....

The Portman letter... puts congressional Republicans in a very difficult position by forcing them to choose between supporting the White House and hurting themselves back home. It's hard to see how those Republicans will side with the White House under these circumstances and, therefore, how the administration's latest budget strategy can succeed...