A Bush Veto Is Overridden for the 1st Time

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 9, 2007

A year after Democrats won control of Capitol Hill, Congress delivered its clearest victory yet over President Bush yesterday, resoundingly overturning his veto of a $23 billion water resources measure -- the first veto override of Bush's presidency.

The 79 to 14 vote in the Senate was followed last night by final passage of a huge, $151 billion health, education and labor spending bill. House and Senate negotiators also reached agreement on a transportation and housing bill that increases spending on highway repair in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse and boosts foreclosure assistance in the midst of a housing crisis.

Moreover, the House unveiled a four-month, $50 billion Iraq war-funding bill that would give the president 60 days to present a plan to complete U.S. troop withdrawals by Dec. 15, 2008. The measure would limit the troops' mission to counterterrorism and the training of Iraqi forces and would extend a torture ban to the CIA.

In short, the long-awaited battle between Congress and Bush over federal spending and the size and reach of government is now on.

"I hope that the Congress feels good about what we've done," said Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "I believe in the institution of the legislative branch of government. I think it should exist, and for seven years this man has ignored us."

The day's events highlighted the growing divide between Congress and the White House over the use of taxpayer resources, especially their differences over domestic programs and war spending.

The Senate last night moved toward final congressional approval of a $459.3 billion defense funding bill that would increase military spending by $35.7 billion -- or 9.5 percent -- over the previous fiscal year. The president has said he will sign that legislation.

But Bush has vowed to veto the newly approved domestic spending bill, which includes $10 billion more than he requested for community health centers, rural health insurance, higher-education grants, education aid, job training and low-income heating assistance. Nor is he likely to accept the new transportation and housing bill.

Republican leaders vowed to round up enough votes to sustain Bush's domestic-spending vetoes, though they acknowledged that many Republicans will probably break with the White House. The domestic-spending bill passed 274 to 141, with the support of 51 Republicans, just three votes short of a veto-proof tally.

The contrast was not lost on Democrats, who promised to highlight the White House's willingness to spend billions of dollars on a war abroad every time Bush and Republicans object to any spending at home.

"He somehow has disassociated himself from the amounts he's spending overseas," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). "We cannot overlook the needs of our country. We are a generous and decent and good people. Our people need help as well."

The Senate's veto-override vote on the water bill included 34 Republicans who abandoned the president. Just 12 stood by him. The Senate vote followed one in the House, which rejected the veto on Tuesday, 361 to 54. Both tallies far surpassed the two-thirds majorities needed to overcome Bush's disapproval.

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