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The Best of the Budget

October 26, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

In finishing up the 2008 budget, Congress has been working their way towards a seemingly inevitable stand-off with President Bush over a discretionary spending difference of $22 billion. But it looks like they may actually have a plan to gain them a little leverage in the debate.

>Congressional sources today said a plan is under consideration to send roughly 70 percent of the total $955 billion in discretionary spending to President Bush in one fell swoop — a massive package encompassing the Defense, Labor-HHS and Military Construction-VA appropriations bills currently in conference. Bush has been calling on Democrats to send him the Defense and Military Construction-VA bills, citing those measures as areas of agreement. But Democrats have been holding back, preferring to deal with the budget as a whole before sending him bills piecemeal and leaving the two sides to fight over portions they disagree on. The Labor-HHS bill contains about half of the total $22 billion difference separating Bush and the Democrats, and represents social services programs Democrats say have been neglected for six years. The Defense and Military Construction-VA bills match Bush’s requests, although Democrats shifted roughly $4 billion from the base Pentagon budget to veterans’ programs. If Bush follows through with his threat, Democrats would put him in the position of vetoing the $670 billion package over $10 billion Democrats added for education, health and welfare programs. That would also make it difficult for Republicans to uphold a veto.

Of course, if Bush does veto the budget package and Congressional Republicans are able to uphold his veto, there’s no reason to think this won’t play out the way the war supplemental did. That stand-off ended with Congress capitulating to Bush by providing full funding for the war without any strings attached after he vetoed their original bill that would have kept the money attached to a timeline for withdrawing troops from Iraq and winding down the war. If Bush successfully vetoes this budget package, Congress will be in the difficult position of withholding $520 billion for veterans and the military over $10 billion for domestic social services programs.

Click here for a great rundown of the politics and programs involved in the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill from Matt Lewis of OMBWatch. Here are some links to OpenCongress pages for the three bills Congress is thinking about bundling:

H.R.3043 – Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act

H.R.2642 – Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

H.R.3222 – Department of Defense Appropriations Act

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