White House, Congress clash over Labor-HHS bill

President Bush threatened to veto Nov. 6 a fiscal 2008 spending bill for a broad swath of human services that House and Senate conferees had approved. White House officials said the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and Related Agencies appropriations contained some provisions to which it objected and was too expensive. It was the third time the White House held out the veto stick as the bill has made its way through the House, Senate and conference.

Members of the House and Senate earlier this week had worked out differences in their respective versions of the spending bill. At the same time, lawmakers combined the Labor-HHS spending bill with the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs appropriations in a two-bill package to force the president to sign it into law. The VA bill has wide support and Bush has indicated he would sign it.

Congress should send the VA bill separately for his signature, he said. Spending bills should be sent to the president one at a time and in a fiscally responsible way, he said. The Labor-HHS bill accounts for $10 billion of the $22 billion increase of the president’s total budget request, the administration said.

“If H.R. 3043 were presented to the president in its current form, he would veto the bill,” White House officials said Nov. 6 in a Statement of Administration Policy.

The White House and Congress continue to lob political grenades. “The president is committed to fiscal discipline,” according to the statement. His budget shows that by restraining the growth in spending, the United States can achieve a balanced budget by 2012, White House officials said.

On the other side, Democratic leaders criticize the president for asking for another $200 billion to cover the $10 billion a month for the war in Iraq.

“He is trying to masquerade as fiscally responsible by manufacturing a fight over what we spend in roughly two months in Iraq ($22 billion) in investments that will make this a stronger and better country,” said Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, in an update published Nov. 6 comparing the House and Senate conference report with the president’s request for the Labor-HHS spending bill.


Bush said the bill funds 56 programs that he planned to terminate because they were duplicative or did not produce results. The bill also includes 2,200 earmarks, or projects that lawmakers have inserted, according to the Statement of Administration Policy.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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