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Bush to Congress on Emergency Spending Bill: It's My Way or the Highway

Reported by Marie Therese - April 11, 2007 -

On Monday April 9th Stuart Varney substituted for regular host Neil Cavuto on Your World. He devoted two segments to the contentious fight that has been raging between the Democratic Congress and the Republican White House over the 2007 emergency supplemental bill. Varney first interviewed Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), a member of the Homeland Security Committee and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who is also a Presidential candidate. He then spoke with Rob Portman of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). It was during the second interview that Varney elicited from Portman the somewhat surprising admission that George Bush might veto the bill even if the Democrats remove the so-called "timetable" for withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

By way of background, Stuart Varney moved to FOX News from CNBC, However, prior to CNBC he had spent many years at CNN, helping them to build their financial news network. The story goes that he left CNN after hearing CNN founder Ted Turner offhandedly refer to the Catholics wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday as "religious freaks." Varney was offended and threatened to resign. CNN attempted to keep him but in the end would not meet his demands regarding salary and increased power within the organization. He moved to FOX News from CNBC in January 2004. Varney is generally a combative interviewer and a true believer in the unbridled, unregulated free market philosophy that characterizes the FOX News approach to business. Recently, however, he did depart a bit from this POV when he suggested that the federal government should regulate private mortgage lenders more closely.

During Monday's show in a discussion with an immigration activist, he kept complaining that the President's new immigration policy wasn't "fair" to legal immigrants like himself, apparently equating his economic status with that of a farm worker. In actuality, Varney has a degree from the London School of Economics. As a British-born, college-educated white male, he faced far less discrimination when trying to enter this country legally than a Mexican farm worker would.

Varney prefaced his interview with Reps. Lee and Hunter by reporting that the Republicans in Congress have written a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi demanding that she reconvene Congress. According to Varney, the Republicans claim that "funding shortfalls will start hitting troops as soon as this weekend if there's no compromise on the war spending bill." He added the caveat that "Pelosi calls the letter a cheap political stunt." (According to FOXNews.com, in actuality it was her spokesman Brendan Daly who made this remark.)

Rep. Lee held her own and then some against Rep. Hunter. She simply would not let Varney interrupt her. Some Democrats know how to handle FOX News - but a lot, don't which is unfortunate because those are the ones that FOX's hosts chew up and spit out on a daily basis.

It is important to remember that George Bush has funded this war completely off the books, using Emergency Supplementals, a tactic which is essentially a form of economic prestidigitation. The $415 billion spent to date does not show up in the official copy of the budget of the United States.

President Bush requested $100 billion in "supplementary funding" to further pursue his folly in Iraq. The Democrats added approximately $24 billion in extra spending above and beyond what the President requested, most of which goes to beef up veterans programs, although several billion was earmarked for various non-war related expenditures.

Additionally and after a hard-fought battle with the Republicans, the Democrats also included a "poison pill" in the legislation, i.e., a flexible but definite timetable for getting American forces out of Iraq. The President has indicated in no uncertain terms that he will veto any bill that comes to him with a timetable.

However, as of Monday, it looks like the White House is raising the ante.

When Stuart Varney asked the OMB's Rob Portman if the President would sign the emergency supplemental if the timetable was gone but the "pork" remained, Portman's answer seemed to indicate that Bush may be playing a game of oneupsmanship with the recalcitrant Congress.

STUART VARNEY: "I really want to cut to the chase. I don't mean to be rude, but, look, if there's a second bill, no timetable but pork, what's he do?"

ROB PORTMAN: "Well the President's made it very clear. He said that there is funding in this bill that has nothing to do with the military, is not an emergency. He's called it excessive and extraneous and he said that, if that is sent to him, he will veto it. And he should. This should be funding for the troops. It should not be an emergency bill that is then loaded up with domestic priorities which then can be dealt with later in the normal appropriations process. One thing that has not gotten much play, Stuart, is the fact that many of these items, by putting them as emergencies, will now not have to be 'paid for.' You recall, when the new majority took power, they talked about a pay-as-you-go rule. By putting these as emergencies and not including them in the regular appropriations process, there does not have to be offsets in order to pay for them, so it really is an inappropriate way to proceed. So, frankly, it's holding the troops hostage, too. What we ought to do is provide funding for them."

There you have it. In his attempt to show that the Democrats are playing parlor tricks with the taxpayers' money, Portman condemns his own boss' use of the selfsame tactics to fund the Iraq war.

The White House must think that the American people are complete idiots. George Bush has funded the insane war to the tune of $415 billion using Emergency Supplementals and his spokesman has the unmitigated gall to chastise the Democrats for adding an extra $24 billion, the large percentage of which goes to veterans? What kind of dream world are these people living in?