From today's New York Times:
President Bush has never exercised his veto power, but he brandished it over major transportation legislation for two years, threatening Congress with the V-word should lawmakers break the bank in pursuit of home-state road and bridge work.
So when Congress delivered transportation legislation with a price tag put at $286.4 billion, the administration claimed victory, noting the final amount was just $2 billion above the White House's limit and far below what senior members of Congress wanted.
But as details of the measure came under closer inspection this week, the spending picture got a bit blurry. In a piece of legislative legerdemain, Congress managed to stuff an extra $8.5 billion into the highway bill and still meet Mr. Bush's demands by requiring that the added money be turned back to the Treasury on Sept. 30, 2009, the day the bill expires....
Budget watchdog groups, already upset at spending they equate to highway bill robbery, say the maneuver is the crowning offense perpetrated by a profligate Congress and exposes the administration as co-conspirators.
"They have this paper tiger approach of holding down the total cost when in reality Congress got its way," said Steve Ellis, vice president for programs at Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Everyone gets to walk away happy."
He and other critics portrayed the maneuver, known in federal budget parlance as a rescission, as a classic example of using the calendar to mask spending excess. They doubt the money will ever be seen again, noting that Mr. Bush and many of the lawmakers responsible will no longer be in office when time runs out on the new highway plan….
President Bush is apparently not disturbed, telling an audience in Texas on Wednesday that he intends to sign the highway measure soon. "We had a little problem getting that bill done over the last couple of years because we had a disagreement about the right number," he said. "I felt that the number ought to be a fiscally responsible number. We worked hard with members of the Senate and the House. I'll be proud to sign a fiscally responsible highway bill next Wednesday in the state of Illinois."