Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard says that Republicans desperately want to become fiscal conservatives again:
In the good old days when Republicans ruled Congress, their instructions for President Bush were: no vetoes, especially of spending bills.
Republican leaders — House Speaker Denny Hastert, for one — made it clear a Bush veto would cause ill will on Capitol Hill. So over a six-year period the president vetoed exactly one bill. And it was a bipartisan bid to increase funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Meanwhile, spending increased, the number of pork barrel expenditures known as earmarks skyrocketed and Republicans lost their reputation as skinflints. “We lost our brand,” says a Republican official.
They want it back. And they are willing to be pilloried by Democrats as pitiless, cruel, unfeeling, callous, uncaring, coldhearted and Scrooge-like to get it. That’s how important it is to Republicans to be seen again as politicians who can be counted on to restrain or, better yet, slash government spending, even in the case of popular programs.
If only it were that easy. I am very much a fiscal conservative and have bemoaned George Bush’s lack of financial discretion to various people during his terms in office. In fact, from my perspective W’s lack of budgetary restraint is one of the most bothersome aspects about his reign of terror in the White House.
“Very disappointing” were the words I used to describe his domestic agenda in a recent off-line converstation about Bush.
Now Republicans want to be thrifty again? Why should I believe them now? I mean, they had 6 years in which they could have cut the floated Fedocracy down to size, kept the budget balanced, and undone decades of Democratic fiscal folly. So what did they do? Spent more than any group of legislators in history.
No wonder they didn’t get re-elected in 2006.
George Bush isn’t immune from the desire to get back to what got him elected in the first place:
“The American people do not want to return to the days of tax-and-spend policies,” Bush said in his radio address.
The House of Representatives on Friday passed a $37 billion budget for the Department of Homeland Security, but Republicans rallied enough votes to uphold a promised veto from Bush.
The measure — one of several annual spending bills that Congress began to consider this week — exceeds Bush’s request for the department by $2.1 billion.
The administration, hoping to appease Republicans who demand fiscal restraint, has pledged to keep overall spending to the level in Bush’s proposed budget in February.
The president has had uneven success.
Most recently, Democrats added $17 billion to an Iraq war funding bill, money not sought by Bush. All told, Democrats plan spending increases for annual agency budgets of about $23 billion above the White House budget request.
House GOP conservatives have pledged to come up with the votes needed to uphold any Bush vetoes.
“I am not alone in my opposition,” Bush said, stressing that 147 Republicans in the House have pledged to stand with him. “These 147 members are more than the one-third needed to sustain my veto of any bills that spend too much.”
It’s about damn time.
The Republican legacy of the naughty aughts is that you can trust either party equally – as long as they’re out of power.
One can look at the current Dems and see the same shoe on the other foot.