View Full Version : Bush Says He May Ignore New War-Funding Law

10-19-2006, 09:12 AM
Bush says he may ignore new war-funding law


By William Matthews

Congress said it wants next year’s defense budget to include funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but President Bush has indicated he may ignore that request.

In a “signing statement” released when he signed the 2007 Defense Authorization Act on Oct. 17, the president listed two dozen provisions in the act that he indicated he may or may not abide by.

Among the provisions is Section 1008 of the Authorization Act, which requires the president to submit defense budgets for 2008 and beyond that include funding for the wars and contain “a detailed justification of the funds requested.”

The Bush administration has frequently ignored requirements that it does not like by proclaiming exclusions from the law in signing statements, which are written statements about how the president plans to interpret the law. Since he became president, Bush has issued statements carving out exceptions to more than 750 laws — a rate far higher than any previous president.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said he “would not be surprised” if Bush ignores the budgeting requirements spelled out in Section 1008.

“I’m very dubious he will abide by it. He has ignored it before,” the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee said during an Oct. 18 press conference.

Levin said the measure was “a strong bipartisan statement” that Congress wants responsible budgeting. He said the administration has made a practice of “irresponsible budgeting” for the war since it began in 2003.

The wars have been paid for through emergency spending bills and “bridge funds” that amount to about $450 billion so far.

Some constitutional scholars say Bush may be on solid legal ground if he refuses to send Congress a defense budget that includes war funding, a congressional staffer said. The scholars argue that the Constitution does not give Congress the authority to tell the president what to request or how to request it.

The staffer said past presidents have rightfully rejected provisions in which Congress has required the president to include specific amounts of money for specific weapons.

“I am not surprised” that Bush may be resisting the demand to include war funding in the regular defense budget, but “this is kind of a wimpy signing statement,” he said.

What Does It Mean?
Lawmakers and their advisors were still “trying to determine what it means” the day after Bush issued it, he said.

The statement says: “Several provisions of the act call for executive branch officials to submit to the Congress recommendations for legislation, or purport to regulate the manner in which the President formulates recommendations to the Congress for legislation.”

It goes on to say, “The executive branch shall construe these provisions in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to recommend for the consideration of the Congress such measures as the President deems necessary and expedient.”

Congressional aides said that appears to mean the president will decide whether or not he must comply with the provisions.

“Basically, what the administration is saying to Congress is: ‘You’ve told us what you want, now we’re going to tell you what we’re going to do,’” said Christopher Hellman, director of the Project on Military Spending Oversight.

The congressional staffer said, “A number of members of Congress are going to be quite unhappy if money for the wars is not included in the budget.”

An amendment requiring war funding to be included in the regular defense budget, introduced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was approved 99 to 0 by the Senate in July. It was accepted by the House in September.

A key congressional complaint about war funding through supplementals and bridge funds is that lawmakers see far fewer details about how the money will be spent, and supplementals must be approved by appropriations committees, but not by authorizing committees. Regular defense budgets must be approved by both.

In the signing statement, Bush also objected to:

A requirement that he name a “coordinator of policy on North Korea” within 60 days, and submit within 90 days an updated intelligence assessment on Iran.
A call for reports on subjects ranging from an early education program for military children to a study on assessing the safety of the nuclear stockpile.
A response plan for remediation of unexploded ordnance, discarded military munitions, and munitions constituents.
A report on a program for replacement of nuclear warheads on certain Trident sea-launched ballistic missiles with conventional warheads.
Energy efficiency in weapons platforms.
A report on participation of multinational partners in the United Nations Command in the Republic of Korea.
A report on the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.
Quarterly reports on Department of Defense response to threat posed by improvised explosive devices.
A National Academy of Sciences study of quantification of margins and uncertainty methodology for assessing and certifying the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile.