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Bush Hits on Stimulus, Earmark Reform

Early in his speech tonight, President Bush hit the brief portions of his speech targeted at two hot-button issues on the Hill -- the economic stimulus package and earmark reform.

"The temptation will be to load up the bill," Bush said of the stimulus plan. "That would delay it or derail it, and neither option is acceptable. This is a good agreement that will keep our economy growing and our people working. And this Congress must pass it as soon as possible."

Those lines drew applause from the GOP side of the aisle, but not from Democrats. It's worth noting what Bush didn't say -- that he would veto the package if the Senate tinkers with it too much. He also didn't single out any specific proposed Democratic add-ons, such as expansion of unemployment insurance and food stamps, as being unacceptable.

Bush could have used much sharper rhetoric as a warning to the Senate, and he didn't. He did, however, vow that "if any bill raising taxes reaches my desk, I will veto it" (though Bush slurred and it sounded more like "raizhing ... reashes.")

As expected, Bush soon thereafter addressed spending projects, saying, "The people's trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks - special interest projects that are often snuck in at the last minute, without discussion or debate."

Bush wants spending bills this year that "cut the cost and number of earmarks in half" from last year's levels, or he'll veto them.

"And tomorrow, I will issue an executive order that directs federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by Congress," Bush said.

What Bush is doing with that second element is essentially daring members to start writing earmarks directly into law, rather than simply putting them into bill report language. Privately, members from both parties have said today they're not sure if that's a good idea, since it would remove more of what little flexibility federal agencies currently have to move money around between accounts.

There will be more updates later. As an aside, press releases "reacting" to the speech from left and right have been rolling in for a couple of hours, but Capitol Briefing can't share them with you because he would be arrested by the Embargo Police.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 28, 2008; 9:23 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda  
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