Okay, that headline is a bit of an exaggeration, but the truth is that there is NOTHING in the past several years to show that the House leadership, including the supposedly conservative Tom DeLay, had a fiscally conservative bone in any of their respective (and sometimes corpulent) bodies. Hastert and DeLay gave the spenders (in this case, not the Appropriators but the Transpo guys) cover because the leaders themselves had their snouts buried in the slop tray. Frankly, it's been this way since the Fall of 1998, when Gingrich himself ordered the conservatives to tank on spending in order to hold the RINOs in line on the rules concerning the impeachment inquiry. I repeat that more than half of the congressional GOP members are utterly worthless -- or worse. Frankly, the entire Beltway GOP establishment, at both "ends" of Pennsylvania Avenue, has gone native. A pox on all their houses and their Houses.
The Spectacle Blog
The situation is even worse than Quin and Dave have discussed. In private meetings with both House and Senate leaders before the notorious "Highway Bill" reached markup status, senior White House officials, and perhaps even the President, made clear that they expected a bill to come in at around $256 billion.
"We made it clear that if the bill did not come in at that level, then the President would veto it," says a former legislative lobbyist for the White House. "It was an outright threat."
So what do the House and Senate leaders do? They ignore the White House. Why? "Because we had made the threat before and never once followed through. They knew they could roll us. And they did," says the lobbyist.
One of the problems with raising the limit was that Congressional leaders Frist, Hastert and DeLay went back to the White House with the numbers. Perhaps had chairmen of the appropriate committees been required to go tell the President his spending limits were being busted, things would have turned out differently. But when someone is giving you cover, it's easy to do what you want to do.
Dave: When they stop making SVT Mustang Cobras, then I'll join the boycott. And not a millisecond before.
Dave -- Good reporting on the press conference. One note: In the year before the one in which the highway bill was passed, Bush had set the target even lower: $256 billion. So he moved the target not twice, but thrice. Now, as for Bush bragging that he has a "stable" administration: That's precisely part of the problem, on two levels. First, in the meaning of "stable" that he intended, the problem is that the administration is so stable that it has calcified. There's no new blood, no fresh ideas, nobody to break the insularity, because they all seem to live in a hermetically sealed environment. If Maxwell Smart's "cone of silence" actually worked, the administration would be inside of it right now, hearing only its own words in an echo chamber. Which is why so much has gone wrong, even from a president whose basic instincts on most things (spending obviously aside, because his instincts on that front just stink) are conservative. That's what brings up the other meaning of stable, which is a place where horses are kept. Well, sometimes a stable needs to be aired out.
Bush says he hasn't vetoed a bill because "they met the benchmarks we set."
That's false by any common sense understanding of truth.
The back story of the highway bill is that the White House moved the goalposts. It set a benchmark for the highway bill at $270 billion. When it was clear Congress would overspend that, the White House moved the benchmark to $284 billion. Bush said he would veto any bill exceeding that cost. The highway bill exceeded even that higher spending ceiling, and President Bush signed it anyway.
"I'm spending it on the war." Has it cost Bush elsewhere? He says he just listed 12 points on his agenda. "Social Security -- it didn't get done. You'll notice it wasn't on the list." He seems mostly to blame Congress.
The war on terror, Patriot Act, tort reform, Supreme Court justices, slight cuts in discretionary spending, and the energy bill.
Would Bush benefit from staff changes? "I'm satisfied with the people I've surrounded myself with. We're a remarkably stable administration."