The GOP has had a rough month. Liberal interest groups are running brutal TV ads that take a page from adopt-a-starving-African-child commercials. Adorable children stare wide-eyed into the camera as a voice-over criticizes President Bush and members of his party for blocking a $35 billion expansion of the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program ("George Bush just vetoed Abby," intones the narrator). And sick kids, it turns out, are just the first salvo: Democrats have lined up an array of heartwarming--and expensive--bills that will be potentially embarrassing for Bush to veto.
The President has made no secret that he intends to pick a fight with Dems on spending. He hopes to reclaim the mantle of fiscal conservatism that plays well to his increasingly dissatisfied base, threatening to block nine of the 12 annual spending bills. The Democrats are countering by front-loading the legislative calendar with the most sympathetic bills. They next plan to hammer Bush on a bipartisan water-resources bill that again he says costs too much money. "The President's vetoes are not consistent with the judgment of the American public," says House majority leader Steny Hoyer. "We believe [the gop] will pay a price for that."
While congressional sources say some kind of compromise is in the works on the children's health-care bill, the water measure--which gives $7 billion to restore Louisiana wetlands and reorganizes the embattled U.S. Army Corps of Engineers--has so much support that Congress is likely to hand Bush the first veto override of his presidency. After that: more spending bills on issues like veterans' funding and education. If the gop thought commercials about sick kids were bad, there may be ads on the environment, veterans, teachers and more to look forward to.