Calling the Bluff
The high-stakes intra-party/intra-branch/inter-branch staring contest (seems more appropriate than 'game of chicken' for some reason) continues in Washington. Yesterday the Senate passed the $109 billion "emergency" appropriations bill by a lopsided 78-21 margin. Now the bill proceeds to cocnference with the House, where the Senate's version was received, eh, not so well.
Speaker Dennis Hastert called the Senate bill "dead on arrival" in the House, which the NYTimes report suggests is "one of the harshest public characterizations in recent memory of legislation from his fellow Republicans in the Senate." Hastert went on to say "The House has no intention of joining in a spending spree at the expense of American taxpayers."
Support was no more forthcoming from Majority Leader John Boehner, who bluntly declared "The House will not take up an emergency supplemental spending bill for Katrina and the war in Iraq that spends $1 more than what the president asked for, period."
Or from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where Scott McClellan maintained the executive poker face: "The president has made it very clear he would veto legislation that goes above and beyond what he called for."
But the Senate bill has its supporters (78 of them, it would appear). Said Appropriations chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) "It is very important to the protection of the security interests of the people of the United States." Of the upcoming conference, Cochran added "I view it as a challenge always to work out a bill in conference with the House. We know we are going to have to make compromises, but it is hard to predict right now exactly what those might be or what the bottom level of the bill might be."
Ranking Democratic Appropriator Robert Byrd (R-WV) urged the president to "have at it" and dare to veto a bill meant to fund operations in Iraq and Gulf Coast recovery. "That is his right under the Constitution. But the Congress should not be bullied by the president into neglecting its responsibility."
At least one opponent of the bill, Senator Tom Coburn, is already urging the president to veto this bill: he said yesterday "Taxpayers want us to be serving in a spirit of service and sacrifice, not searching for new ways to raid the public treasury."
No blinking yet ... make your guesses for how this all turns out in the comments section, I'll come up with a prize for whoever is closest to the actual result. President Bush, you're ineligible.