[[S H A M S]] * I ask once more, How stupid do Republicans think we are? George W. Bush, faced with a rising national debt ceiling, declining family incomes and significant reductions in personal savings among Americans, and fellow GOPers who seem intent on setting new records for how much “pork” they can stuff into their legislation, has asked Congress for the right to remove spending he finds objectionable from any and all bills sent to his desk for signing. Although U.S. chief executives since Ulysses S. Grant in the mid-19th-century have pleaded for tools to help them reduce congressional spending, President Bill Clinton is unique in actually having had use of the so-called line-item veto, which allowed him to strike individual provisions from tax and spending legislation, without vetoing the bills in their entirety. But of course, he only had the right for less than two years, before it was ruled unconstitutional. Now, though, Bush wants to try again, this time proposing legislation that the White House insists would get around any constitutional questions. As the Christian Science Monitor reports, it “would allow the president to defer spending on items with which he disagrees, while signing the rest of a bill. Congress would then have 10 days to vote up or down on whether to fund the disputed items, without amendment or filibuster. Passage would be by majority, not the two-thirds margin traditionally required to override a veto.”
There are good arguments to be made in favor of the line-item veto. But they can’t be made with a straight face by Bush and his gang. Congress and the media shouldn’t waste even a moment of their precious time debating the pluses and minuses of this proposal until after the prez finds the courage to use the veto power he has already. Bush, you’ll remember, is the first president since James A. Garfield (who died just six months into his 19th-century term) not to veto a single bill that’s crossed his desk. It seems abundantly clear that he’s talking about a line-item veto only because it polls well with voters concerned about the health of their own pocketbooks, as well as the vitality of the nation’s economy. And because he’s hoping to distract Americans from the multiplying Republican scandals and increasing talk that Iraq--his legacy--is on the verge of a civil war.
IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE: Speaking of Bush’s war in the Middle East, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that “80 percent [of respondents] believe that recent sectarian violence makes civil war in Iraq likely, and more than a third say such a conflict is ‘very likely’ to occur. These expectations extend beyond party lines: More than seven in 10 Republicans and eight in 10 Democrats and political independents say they believe such a conflict is coming.” Read on.
READ MORE: “Stop Me Before I Spend Again,” by Steve Benen (The Carpetbagger Report); “Bush, Congress Make a Farce of the Debt Ceiling,” by John M. Berry (Bloomberg News).