NEW ALBANY, Ind. – Intensifying his battle with Congress over federal spending, President Bush on Tuesday vetoed an appropriations bill for the first time, rejecting $150.7 billion in spending for school aid, health care and other domestic programs.
But as he complained about the cost of that bill, which would have increased spending on these programs by 4.3 percent over last year, Bush signed a $471 billion defense appropriations bill that pushed up military spending by more than 9.5 percent.
And he urged Congress to quickly appropriate $196 billion in spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Congress’ responsibility is clear: It should not go home for the Christmas holidays without giving our troops on the front lines the funds they need to succeed,” Bush told business leaders in southern Indiana after excoriating Democrats for mismanaging the federal budget.
The president’s veto and his complaints were greeted with derision by congressional Democrats, who were quick to point out Bush’s six-year record of approving unbalanced budgets passed by Republican Congresses.
“It is patently absurd that President Bush, whose irresponsible policies instigated record budget deficits and added more than $3 trillion to the national debt, now wants to pretend that he is somehow an exemplar of fiscal responsibility,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Hoyer said House Democrats would try to override the veto this week.
The appropriations bill – which would have funded the federal departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education – contained substantial increases in funding for Head Start, reading and math instruction, and other programs targeted at poor children.
It appropriated additional money for community health centers and reversed proposed cuts in funding for medical research at the National Institutes of Health.