CHN: Appropriations Veto Threat Seeks to Force Cuts in Domestic Programs
Is it necessary to wait for appropriations bills to be written before threatening to veto them? Not for some key players in Washington. The President’s director of the Office of Management and Budget Rob Portman sent a letter to Congress on May 11 saying he would recommend vetoes if appropriations bills exceeded the President’s budget proposal, and after the Congressional Budget Resolution was passed, issued a press release repeating that challenge. (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/pubpress/2007/051607_budget_conference.pdf)
Also promoting the sight-unseen veto strategy are members of the House Republican Study Committee (RSC), a group of more than a hundred very conservative members. They are circulating a letter to be sent to the President, vowing to vote to sustain his vetoes of sight-unseen appropriations bills. (http://www.house.gov/hensarling/rsc/doc/spend-veto.pdf) So far, they report that they have collected 135 signatures. They would need another 11 votes to deny a veto override in the House, assuming all members were voting. The Republican Study Group will not release the names of signers until or unless they collect the requisite 146.
Human needs advocates, loathe to see the hard-won gains of the Budget Resolution jeopardized before the first appropriations bill reaches the floor, are mounting an effort to persuade House members not to sign the RSC letter. They are hoping a substantial number of Republicans will take the advice former Appropriations Chair C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) offered to the Administration, as quoted in CQ Weekly, “I would probably suggest seeing what the bills look like before he threatens vetoes.” National organizations are co-signing a letter to House Republicans that will be delivered when Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess. The advocates’ letter points out that the veto threat is “pure and simple a declaration of intent to cut badly needed services below today’s already inadequate levels.”
The difference between the President’s recommended total for appropriations and Congress’ Budget Resolution is $23 billion. While that is only 2.4 percent higher than the President’s figure, it allows Congress to provide above-inflation growth for domestic programs. The President’s budget would force cuts in those programs.
So far, four House Appropriations subcommittees have approved $9 billion more than the President requested. The majority of subcommittees have not yet reported out bills, with Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, Agriculture, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development still to come. The House hopes to complete floor action on all appropriations bills except defense by the end of July. The Senate expects its committee work to be done by then, with floor votes later. After the House and Senate work out their differences, appropriations bills must be signed by the President before the October 1 start of the new fiscal year. That sets up September as the key time for vetoes and override attempts. Between now and then, advocates must show the need for increased funding for programs including health care, nutrition, housing, education and other vital services – and show the harm of further cuts.