Another veto showdown is shaping up between Congress and the White House, this time over a spending bill for health and education. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says President Bush threatened to kill the massive appropriations bill for two reasons: because it contained a provision for expanded stem cell research and it was for 11-billion dollars more than he’d requested.
"The president sent his veto message down and objected to those two parts," Harkin says, "so in consultation with my Republican colleague, Senator (Arlen)Specter, I removed the stem cell provision before bringing it to the floor. Keep in mind, this is a core priority for me and many other senators, matter of fact, 66 other senators."
Harkin, a Democrat, says the bill is winning the support of many members of both parties in both chambers and he tried to offer an olive branch to Bush — which Harkin says was rejected. Harkin says: "I thought, ‘What the heck?’ I will, in the spirit of compromise, meet the president half way. Unfortunately, Mr. Bush seems determined to have it ‘my way or the highway’ and to provoke a confrontation. On Tuesday, he escalated his rhetoric. He reiterated his veto threat, didn’t even mention the fact we’d taken out the stem cell portion, and dismissed the bill as quote, ‘social spending.’"
Harkin says the president couldn’t be more wrong, adding, the bill aims to pay for "essential programs that have been shortchanged in recent years." Harkin says: "The president’s budget would have cut cancer research and other medical research at N-I-H (National Institutes of Health). It would have cut thousands of children from the Head Start program. It would cut families from low-income home energy assistance programs at a time when fuel costs are skyrocketing. It would have eliminated the safety net for job training and housing, emergency food assistance including people with disabilities."
Harkin is meeting today in a House-Senate conference committee to craft a new "solid" spending bill.