Despite some troubled times for the Bush administration in recent weeks, the president has one golden opportunity to put his stamp on this second administration. Bush must use the veto pen on the bloated budget bill under debate that spends $141 billion for transportation, housing and other programs. Without a veto, Bush's conservative label will be forever eroded. He must act now.
The Senate this week erupted in a near brawl when senators began defending their pet projects. Yet Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma went against Senate tradition and began questioning some of the spending. He was criticized by every other senator including our own Christopher Bond. But Coburn was right. Unfortunately his lone voice was not nearly enough. It will take a presidential veto - a move that Bush has thus far rejected.
Coburn wondered why we're spending $223 million to build a bridge in Alaska that will serve an island with 50 residents. But no sooner had he spoken than the senior senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens, threatened to resign if the funds were withheld. I think they should have a going-away party for Stevens tomorrow.
The Bush administration has said the transportation bill is too expensive and wants some of those funds to help finance the relief effort from the recent hurricanes. But senators were protective of their pet projects and wanted nothing to do with the spending limits.
The bill would spend $39 billion for the Housing and Urban Development Department but that is $5 billion more than the Bush administration wants. Same goes for Amtrak funding and IRS funding. Bush must take a stand on this issue or his administration will be more about words than actions. He has to veto this measure and show senators that he means business on less government spending. And finally, Bush must fulfill a promise to those of us who voted for him that he would reduce the size of government. Thus far, all we've heard is words. We've seen no actions.
I couldn't care less if Karl Rove is indicted or Tom Delay is jailed. I don't care about the critics who said the feds were slow with disaster relief. But I do care about immigration and I do care about more government spending. President Bush is running out of time. His administration this week finally said they were going to tackle immigration in a more aggressive manner. Those were welcome words. But Bush needs to pull out the veto pen and tell senators their work is not completed until they reduce the pork projects that win votes back home.
I'm darned tired of politicians bringing pork to their district while bankrupting this country. If HUD gets one dime more than the administration wants, then the conservative movement is seriously damaged. And if a bridge to nowhere in Alaska takes priority over a bridge destroyed by the hurricanes, then those who support that spending should be ashamed.
If Bush can't find his, I have a pen in my desk that I would willingly loan him. He needs to remember who sent him to Washington and what his mission was when elected. If his memory is that short, his legacy will be even shorter.