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All This Over That?

September 12, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

In the budget clash that is shaping up, the stakes are high, but the amount of money involved is almost negligible. President Bush has threatened to veto 9 of Congress’s 12 government funding bills for fiscal year ‘08 because, he says, they contain “irresponsible and excessive level of spending.” But, when you look at the numbers, Congress’s budget differs from Bush’s request by such a small amount that it seems a ludicrous reason to ramp up a political standoff, especially when it puts all of America at risk of a total government shutdown.

This chart from OMBWatch puts the budget figures in perspective:

The budget clash is over the amount represented in the left-most column. That’s the difference between Congress’s budget and Bush’s budget request (right-most column).

The “anticipated war supplemental” column shows the amount that Bush is asking Congress to give him to fund the Iraq war — that’s money he is asking for on top of the normal $463 billion Defense budget. Much of Congress — more than half, but not quite two-thirds — does not want to give Bush this money, at least not without attaching to it a firm date for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. The budget difference between Congress and the President is about one-tenth the size of the war supplemental and would be used for social investments that would almost certainly be more popular than the war. But Congress, for fear of being labeled troop-adbandoners, will probably end up approving the $200 billion is supplemental war funding. If Congress is hoping to be competitive with the $22 billion budget difference, they should make the President afraid of the bad names he will be called. They have a couple of advantages to begin with — their causes are more popular, have a day-to-day affect, and cost incomparably less.

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