Sooner or later, President Bush and the Democratic-run Congress will have to compromise on must-pass legislation. Even “My Way or the Highway” Bush recognizes this.
Somehow this doesn’t seem to have registered with the Democrats yet.
Rather than enacting the 12 annual funding bills for the government by the Sept. 30 deadline, allowing time for the confrontation both parties want but still leaving time for compromise, the Democrats have dithered while they debated the best way to steam roll the president. That has allowed Bush to piously declaim that this is the latest date in 20 years that Congress has failed to get even a single spending bill to his desk. This is literally true, omitting, however, that it was often January on his watch when Republican-run Congresses got around to finishing the spending bills and the last GOP Congress was one of the worst ever in this regard.
Generally, Congress gets at least one bill to the president on time, even if it’s only the routine, uncontroversial measure funding its own operations.
The problem for the Democrats is that on a straight party-line vote they can’t override a Bush veto, but on some popular measures they could probably carry enough Republican votes. One such bill was renewal of the children’s health insurance program.
The minority Republicans asked the House leadership to delay the vote to Monday of this week because their California members had gone home for a long weekend because of the wildfires. The Democrats, already sharpening their attack ads that Bush and the Republicans were “against” health care for poor children, insisted on an immediate vote. The override might have lost anyway, but the margin would have been smaller and the Republicans more inclined to compromise on the next try.
Bush has threatened to veto most of the funding bills on the grounds of cost. To beat the expected veto, the Democrats are contemplating consolidating three funding bills — Pentagon, veterans’ care and education — into a single $675 billion bill on the grounds that Bush would swallow a $14 billion increase in politically popular veterans’ health care, medical research and education to get the hefty increase in spending he asked for.
If he vetoes the bill and Congress fails to override, it might be after Thanksgiving before Congress can get a more acceptable measure passed. Is it worth the delay to score political points against an unpopular lame-duck president? The Democrats seem to think so. Most people probably would not.