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Bush Derides Iraq War Measure
Inside the White House, Bush strategists hope that the Democrats will overplay their hand, as the Republicans themselves did a decade ago. "This is in some ways a replay of the government shutdown," agreed one White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy. "The Republicans overreached at that point. I think that the Democrats will overreach [now]. We'll see."
Bush criticized yesterday the $20 billion in domestic spending that was added to the Senate bill. The nonmilitary spending includes $1.6 billion for flood and storm damage relief along the Gulf Coast, $2 billion to cover crop losses, $25 million for drought assistance, $820 million for low-income heating subsidies, and $75 million to repair the failing computer system at the Farm Service Agency.
"You know, all these matters may be important matters," Bush told the cattlemen. "They don't need to be loaded on to a bill that is an emergency spending bill for our troops."
"Not true," responded Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who called the spending package "a balanced bill that meets the needs of our people." Addressing Bush on the Senate floor, she said: "You're getting $102 billion" in military funding. "How about $20 billion for the needs here at home?"
One provision targeted by critics involves $100 million to pay for security at the 2008 Republican and Democratic conventions. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) defended the sum, calling the GOP convention in Minneapolis a "national security event."
Bush singled out $6.4 million in the House bill for House salaries and expense accounts. "I don't know what that is," the president said to laughter, "but it is not related to the war and protecting the United States of America."
The funds are actually for a highly classified upgrade of Capitol security that has been underway since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Bush also ridiculed a provision to conduct tours of the Capitol, another opportunity to jab at Congress. "There's $3.5 million for visitors to tour the Capitol and see for themselves how Congress works," Bush said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "I'm not kidding you."
Staff writer Peter Baker contributed to this report.