Attention All Deficit Hawks: Do You Know Where Your Veto Threats Are?
The White House yesterday did something that should truly warm the hearts of deficit hawks everywhere: it threated to veto the 2010 military authorization bill over two big spending issues -- the F22 and the alternate engine for the F35.
A little background. Although both of these programs were questioned for years by the Bush White House, Congress kept insisting that the Pentagon spend the money anyway and the president always went along. This year, the F22 was a target of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates when he held a press conference in April on his budget priorities. Several weeks later, President Obama specifically used both programs as examples of government waste and then requested no funds for them in his budget. In between those two events, Citizens Against Government Waste declared both to be prime examples of pork and listed them prominently in its Pig Book.
The Obama veto threat is a much bigger deal than it seems.
First, the White House didn't have to do it. It's threating to veto an authorization bill that, even if it's adopted, won't actually spend any money. That will happen later in the year with the appropriation. That means that the administration is drawing the line now and trying to stop the spending for both programs from gaining any momentum. That's a good sign for deficit hawks who have been insisting that they need a sign that the White House is serious about cutting spending.
Second, the veto threat came in the midst of the much bigger fight for the White House on health care. The White House could have backed away so that it didn't antagonize the members who support these programs...but it didn't. Again, another good sign for deficit hawks who want proof of the president's devotion to reduced spending.
(Full disclosure: My firm works for one of the companies involved in one of the projects discussed above. I'm confortable writing this post because it talks about the president's budget behavior, which is one of the primary topics this blog discusses on a regular basis, and doesn't discuss the company's position.)