WASHINGTON – resident Bush ridiculed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday for saying that the $22 billion that separates Democrats in Congress and the White House on spending bills is a "very small difference."
"Only in Washington can $22 billion be called a very small difference," Bush said after meeting with his Cabinet.
Bush's tough talk in the steamy Rose Garden was his latest attempt to frame his side of the debate with the Democratic-led Congress over a dozen spending measures needed to fund federal operations after the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
The president knocked Democratic leaders for planning to send Congress into its summer recess for a month starting this weekend without sending him a single one of the bills.
That gives lawmakers very little time after they return in early September to get the spending bills passed.
"If Congress doesn't pass the spending bills by the end of the fiscal year, Cabinet secretaries report that their departments may be unable to move forward with urgent priorities for our country," Bush said. "This doesn't have to be this way."
Bush has threatened vetoes or signaled veto threats against nine of the 12 annual spending bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1; all but two of those threats involve spending levels that exceed the budget the administration proposed in February.
Lawmakers have increased the president's $433 billion request for non-defense programs by about 5 percent. In many cases, the Democratic add-ons restore cuts Bush sought. In prior years, GOP-controlled congresses denied many of the same cuts.
On Wednesday after meeting with Bush at the White House, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats want to work with the president "to negotiate the very small difference between Democrats and Republicans on these appropriations bills."
While Democrats tried to downplay the figure, Bush tried to make it sound as large as possible. He said it would amount to $205 billion over five years, which would average out to $1,300 in additional — unnecessary, in his view — spending per second.
"That's a lot of money — even for career politicians in Washington," the president said.