In his first six years in office, and joined at the hip with a Republican
Politburo Rubber Stamp Congress so completely faithless to the Constitution that it ceded every possible power to the president, George W. Bush found it necessary to veto a grand total of one bill: stem-cell research. Everything else he wanted deep-sixed (and there was plenty, despite Congress having prostrated itself before Zod Bush) was sent to the Phantom Zone via the now-infamous "signing statements."
Back in May, Bush issued the second veto of his presidency, to kill the supplemental Iraq occupation spending bill he'd requested, because it actually demanded he fish or cut bait.
Turns out that vetoes and threats of vetoes are a habit Bush has taken a shine to:
Bush Is Prepared to Veto Bill to Expand Child Insurance
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON, July 14 — The White House said on Saturday that President Bush would veto a bipartisan plan to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, drafted over the last six months by senior members of the Senate Finance Committee.
The vow puts Mr. Bush at odds with the Democratic majority in Congress, with a substantial number of Republican lawmakers and with many governors of both parties, who want to expand the popular program to cover some of the nation’s eight million uninsured children.
Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said: "The president’s senior advisers will certainly recommend a veto of this proposal. And there is no question that the president would veto it."
Sure, but that's just one bill. Right? Well, let's put it in context:
Faced with a Congress working to take America in a new direction, President Bush—who vetoed nothing during his first five and a half years in office—has now vetoed 2 bills and threatened to veto 16 more. The Democratic-led House of Representatives has passed legislation to address the toughest challenges we face—working together to defend our country, restore accountability, grow our economy, strengthen our families, and preserve our planetmost with a bi-partisan majority. Unfortunately, the President has been a stubborn opponent of progress for the American people on these key issues. He opposes or has threatened to veto 60 percent of the House's work. [Emphasis added.]
The Children's Health Insurance Program bill makes 17. What else is on the block?
- The College Cost Reduction Act - H.R. 2669
- Homeland Security Appropriations - H.R. 2638
- State-Foreign Operations Appropriations - H.R. 2764
- Interior-Environment Appropriations - H.R. 2643
- The Energy Price Gouging Act – H.R. 1252
- The No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act - H.R. 2264
- FY 2008 Defense Authorization Bill - H.R. 1585
- FY 2008 Homeland Security Authorization - H.R. 1684
- Hate Crimes Prevention Act – H.R. 1592
- D.C. Voting Rights Act – H.R. 1905
- Rail and Mass Transit Security Act - H.R. 1401
- Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007 - H.R. 1255
- Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007 - H.R. 985
- Reauthorizing Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund - H.R. 720
- Employee Free Choice Act - H.R. 800
- Requiring Medicare to Negotiate Lower Prescription Drug Prices - H.R. 4
[Note: This -- the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act -- makes 18. For more on which, see the very last link, below.]
Now, there are a few easy shots that can be taken here. One is that these bills represent all the "oxygen" impeachment advocates were told they would be "sucking up" if the Congress were to put that option "on the table." So, everyone, how's your breathing?
But look, there's still time. Who knows what will happen, right? Bush could change his mind. He could find himself somehow so politically weakened and isolated that he can't afford to follow through on his vow to veto these bills. It could happen.
Another shot would have to be aimed directly at those who, I think, underestimated Bush's intransigence. Back in March of 2006, I had an exchange with someone who, I think it's fair to say, represented the views of a good number of people both here and around the country. The gist of the challenge to me was that the president to that point had never vetoed anything. Was he really going to start vetoing popular bills in the sixth year of his presidency, just as he became a lame duck? That, it was thought, was giving his brazenness too much respect.
Now, that's offered not to call that particular person to account. I only bring it up to the extent that it was necessary to illustrate the point with a direct example, and I'm sorry to have to put anyone in particular on the spot. It's surely something less than fair to do, on the front page in particular. And we should recognize that it was surely, at least at the time, a view not completely unfounded in reality, and he could hardly be blamed for taking it. But with the benefit of 16 months of hindsight, I think we may be starting to see the outlines of an answer taking shape, don't you think? That's the important thing.
And the reason it's important is that it also gives us a window into one of the other hot issues of the moment: how far will Bush go to stonewall Congressional oversight?
That's an issue in which, once again, most Congressional Democrats assume that the game will be played within the confines of the old rules, and that the president "wouldn't dare" instruct the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia not to prosecute anyone the Congress voted to hold in contempt for failure to comply with its subpoenas, for instance. Or that he "wouldn't dare" pardon (for all intents and purposes) Scooter Libby so far in advance of the end of his term. Or that he "wouldn't dare" to simply "defy" an Act of Congress.
I think that makes it a fair question for those of us who are concerned to ask whether there's a "Plan B" -- not for Iraq, but for Congress, in the event that Bush should "dare" to do any of these things the old rules of politics made us so sure he wouldn't.
And if you don't want to talk about it in terms of the contentious questions concerning oversight and/or impeachment, what other crisis can we see looming here? Looking at the list above, we can see that Bush has threatened to veto the Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations, Financial Services, and Interior-Environment appropriations bills. That's one third of the year's 12 regular appropriations bills, and two-thirds of the appropriations bills that have managed to pass the House so far (5 out of 7 if you include the first Iraq supplemental).
Now, consider what happened with that Iraq supplemental. Anyone observing closely could see that the Congress provided the funding, and Bush rejected it. And yet, Bush successfully convinced even many Congressional Democrats that they would be blamed for not "funding the troops in the field." With Bush already threatening to veto half of the FY08 appropriations bills, who do you think will be blamed for that other thing Americans supposedly hate more than anything, the government shutdown?
So, what's the "Plan B," folks? What are we doing differently to avoid taking the blame for these vetoes? What are we doing differently to avoid having to bend to Bush's increasingly ridiculous demands in exchange for his signature?
UPDATE: Note, too, that if Bush vetoes half the appropriations bills, that creates a rather serious raft of busy work for Congress right about... oh, I'd say, September or so.
Gee, I hope nothing important is coming up in September that should have more of our attention than this.
UPDATE II: The count goes to 19 -- with the FY08 Energy and Water Appropriations bill under veto threat, too. That's five of twelve regular appropriations bills facing vetoes.
UPDATE III: Twenty. Add Labor-HHS-Education appropriations. Fully half of the regular appropriations agenda.
Comments are closed on this story.