Romney's 'Read My Lips' Legacy?
Only the wonkiest wonks of Washington would catch a technical foul such as this one: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a new TV ad in which he vows to cap non-defense discretionary spending if elected president and declares, "If Congress sends me a budget that exceeds that cap I will veto that budget!"
"I can't wait to get my hands on Washington!" Romney roars.
Well, he may want to get his hands on a budget lesson first. Because the thing is, in Washington, presidents don't veto budgets. Budget resolutions are simply blueprints that, by law, are not sent to the White House for the president's signature.
And budget experts don't take this stuff lightly.
Budget guru Stanley Collender, a managing director at Qorvis Communications and author of the weekly column "Budget Battles" for National Journal, says someone running for president ought to know how the budget and spending process works.
"It's the domestic equivalent of knowing who the leaders of foreign countries are," Collender says, adding, maybe only half-jokingly that the quote "I will veto that budget" could go down in history as "Mitt Romney's equivalent of 'mission accomplished' or 'read my lips, no new taxes.'"
Bob Greenstein, executive director of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, declined to take a swipe at Romney. But just as a tutorial, he explained, "The congressional budget resolution is not a law, and presidents don't get to sign or veto it. They do get to sign or veto individual appropriations or authorization bills."
To be fair, in his ad, Romney uses the proper terminology when he says that as governor of Massachusetts, he took the veto pen to "hundreds of spending appropriations." He didn't say he ever vetoed a "budget" in Massachusetts.
Romney campaign spokesman Kevin Madden says Romney used the term "budget" in "an interchangeable fashion" in the speech featured in the TV ad.
And we give him the last word.
"Sounds much better than 'appropriations bill' don't you think?" Madden said. "Only policy wonks in Washington who are busy spending too much of the taxpayers' hard earned money and e-mailing The Sleuth during work hours would take issue with the wording. Americans who deal with real budgets every day recognize the governor's message and it's resonating."
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