Spending bills

The Democratic Congress, its approval rating below the president’s in some polls, has yet to pass any one of a dozen pending appropriations bills.

With the federal government’s new fiscal year set to begin Monday, Congress must either burn the midnight oil this week, pass “continuing resolutions” to keep Washington running at current spending levels or risk a “government shutdown.”

On Monday, President Bush criticized his congressional foes for their inaction and warned that Democrats may try to wrap all 12 spending bills into one giant “omnibus” measure, which would make it easier to lard up the federal budget and override a potential veto.

“If they think that by waiting until just before they leave for the year to send me a bill that is way over budget and thicker than a phone book, if they think that’s going to force me to sign it, it’s not,” said Mr. Bush. “This would be bad for our country, it would be harmful for our economy, it would be unfair for the taxpayers.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded in predictable fashion, flashing the well-worn class-warfare card that he keeps in his breast pocket. “The only things harmful to our economy and unfair for the taxpayers are President Bush’s misguided priorities — billions for Iraq and tax breaks for multi-millionaires,” he said. Sen. Reid went on to argue that “after running up $3 trillion in new debt” Mr. Bush has no business “lecturing Congress about fiscal responsibility and fiscal priorities.”

Sen. Reid’s latter point has merit. During his first term, Mr. Bush did next to nothing to demonstrate any devotion to fiscal restraint. But the notion that a Democratic president — with a Democratic Congress — would put the clamps on runaway federal budget growth is better left to the funny pages.

If the president is now a convert to the battle over injecting sanity into the Washington budget debate, better late than never. In the meantime, let’s hope his actions match his rhetoric if congressional big spenders decide to force a budget showdown.

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