View Full Version : GOP is in 'deep funk' over Bush spending

03-12-2006, 06:50 AM
Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Washington -- The Republican rebellion that President Bush smacked into with the Dubai ports deal was the tip of an iceberg of Republican discontent that is much deeper and more dangerous to the White House than a talk radio tempest over Arabs running U.S. ports.

A Republican pushback on Capitol Hill and smoldering conservative dissatisfaction have already killed not just the ports deal but key elements of Bush's domestic agenda, and threaten GOP control of Congress if unhappy conservatives sit out the November midterm elections.

The apostasy in some quarters runs to heretofore unthinkable depths.

"If I had a choice and Bush were running today against (Democratic President) Bill Clinton, I'd vote for Bill Clinton," said Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan administration Treasury Department official whose book, "Impostor: How George Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," is making the rounds of conservative think tanks and talk shows. "He was clearly a much better president in a great many ways that matter to me."

Bartlett may lie at the extreme, but his critique taps into a strong undertow -- reflected in a sharp drop in Bush's support among his typically solid Republican base, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Friday.

"Bush's compassionate conservatism has morphed into big government conservatism, and that isn't what the base is looking for," said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. "The White House and the congressional leadership have got to reinvigorate the Republican base. In off-year elections ... if your base isn't energized, particularly in a relatively evenly divided electorate, you've got more problems than you think you have."

Any significant drop in GOP turnout in the November midterms -- when the party in power is historically weak -- could prove disastrous for Republicans.

A Democratic takeover of either the House or the Senate would expose Republicans to a nightmare scenario: loss of control over policymaking and relentless congressional investigations of the White House that would consume the rest of Bush's presidency and damage Republican presidential prospects in 2008.

"Republicans are in a deep funk," said Marshall Wittman, a former aide to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., now at the centrist Democratic Progressive Policy Institute. "They're going to have to send out doses of Prozac in the (Republican National Committee) direct-mail pieces."

Whither the base?

The entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are up for grabs in just seven months. Democrats need a gain of six seats to win back control of the Senate and 15 seats to retake the House. Bush's election strategies have always hinged on a motivated conservative base.

"At the end of the day, the bulk of us are with the president and with the leadership, but that's because we don't have any other place to go," said Manuel Miranda, head of the conservative Third Branch Conference who helped kill Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. "We suppose they're doing the best they can, but we're all very unhappy."

Although the Iraq war is hurting Bush with all voters, the deeper conservative discontent is with the spectacular growth of spending during the last five years that rivals that of a famously free-spending Democrat, President Lyndon Johnson.

Frustration over spending now threatens to overshadow Bush's accomplishments that conservatives love: his first-term tax cuts and his nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

"I think it's the biggest reason our base is so disenchanted with Republicans right now," said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. "The president has been great on tax cuts, and been great on a few issues, economic growth, pretty good on trade -- little hiccup on some steel tariffs there -- but I think most of us recognize that these tax cuts are increasingly difficult to defend politically because of the increase in spending."

Moving to stanch the damage, Bush called last week for Congress to grant him a line-item veto to prevent members from redirecting money in spending bills to their pet projects, a practice known as earmarking that has achieved notoriety under the GOP. The Congressional Research Service counted 15,877 earmarks in 2005, almost four times as many as in 1994, when Democrats last held a House majority.

What Bush didn't say is that he already has the power to eliminate 95 percent of these earmarks.

A Congressional Research Service report requested by Flake and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., found that most earmarks are slipped into committee reports but are not part of the legislation and not legally binding.

'We wish he'd use it'

"The president could instruct the federal agencies tomorrow not to fund any of them," Flake said. "The president has a lot more authority and control than he's willing to admit right now, and we wish he'd use it. That's something he could do right now, and it would engender just a ton of support among Republicans everywhere, and frankly Democrats.

"The indoor rain forest in Iowa -- there are things that are just as ugly as the bridge to nowhere," Flake said, referring to a pair of highly criticized earmarks. "He could simply instruct the agency, 'Don't fund that.' Believe me, I've had discussions. We've recommended it. We just can't get him to do it."

Many conservatives remain furious over the new prescription drug benefit in Medicare passed in 2003, the biggest entitlement expansion since Johnson created Medicare in 1965. It took effect at the start of this year.

"The one big strategic error -- which was a political error and an economic error of grand proportions -- was the prescription drug bill," Keene said.

Bush and the GOP leaders who rammed it through Congress hoped the drug benefit would neutralize health care as a political issue for Republicans. Instead it is proving an enormous liability. Its cost -- more than a trillion dollars over 10 years and more than the entire unfunded liability in Social Security -- angered conservatives, and it has backfired politically among seniors who typically turn out heavily in off-year elections. Even though seniors got an expensive new benefit, many complain that it is too confusing and offers too many choices, an idea Democrats have encouraged.

The drug benefit was the last straw for Bartlett. "That's not what conservatives and that's not what Republicans are supposed to do," he said. "They're not supposed to create massive new entitlement programs, and they did."

Conservatives contend Bush has never resisted spending, starting with the gigantic farm bill in 2001 and continuing with his failure to veto a single bill. Bush is the longest-serving president to do so since John Quincy Adams in 1829.

"There's a sense that Republicans are not the party of reforming government and ending big spending," Miranda said. "Although people gave the president a pass because of the war cost, there's a sense that there's just no principled approach to government spending."

Bartlett argues that government's growth under Bush will eventually force his tax cuts to be rolled back and leave conservatives with the worst of both worlds.

Last week, Senate Republicans unceremoniously ditched Bush's call to trim $65 billion in entitlement spending. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa also questioned the need for more health care tax breaks -- including the health savings account expansion that Bush highlighted in his State of the Union address.

Question of competence

White House handling of the Dubai ports deal also crystallized growing doubt among Republicans about what had been one of Bush's strong suits: competence. The ports deal added to the growing list of what many see as White House failures in planning for the Iraq occupation, pushing Social Security reform and responding to Hurricane Katrina.

"I've been astounded by Bush in his relationship with Republicans in Congress," Keene said. "In my lifetime, there has been no Republican president who has spent as much effort and as much time electing people of his own party to the Congress, or less time talking to them after they got there."

The Republicans in Congress also are reading the polls. The AP-Ipsos poll, for example, found Bush's job approval in March was at 37 percent, tied for his lowest rating. The president's approval among Republicans dropped from 83 percent last month to 74 percent in March.

While Republicans are starting to run away from Bush for the midterms, what may be more telling for the future of the party is the stance of Republican presidential contenders in 2008.

"In 1988, all Republicans ran as heirs to (President Ronald) Reagan," Wittman said. "It's becoming increasingly unlikely that candidates in 2008 will be running as heirs to Bush."

web page (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/03/12/MNG9BHMUFU1.DTL)

Gayle in MD
03-15-2006, 12:53 PM
Thanks Richard,
I think as the middle class continues to feel financial pinch on their finances resulting from the tax structure which favors the wealthy, and Corporate pocketbooks, along with the senior citizens dealing with the failed medical prescription plan, which is a joke, republicans are going to have a tough time of it...it's kind of funny, they can't come out against their republican president, without looking bad, and they can't defend themselves for pushing his policies through unless they come out against him, lol. Bush sure put them all between a rock and a hard place...add to that the Ports deal and the civil war in Iraq, which the administration continutes to deny, things don't look too rosey for the right!

Gayle in Md.

03-16-2006, 08:43 AM
I think as the middle class continues to feel financial pinch on their finances resulting from the tax structure which favors the wealthy <hr /></blockquote> What is this pinch you are talking about? This is a fallacy at best.

Bush's spending is out of control. He definitely is not an extreme righty.


03-16-2006, 09:56 AM
This is one of the things most people do not understand about financial woes of our country and how the political maneuvering within the house and senate affect us all after a while.

Bush proposed tax cuts. The House and the Senate approved them. They can all turn around and tell voters that its all Bush's falt, but they voted for the cuts to appeal to voters without looking at how this would effect everything long term.

Here is some good info on what this mess is about. It also shows who voted for it, why it won't work and what both sides have to say about it.
Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jobs_and_Growth_Tax_Relief_Reconciliation_Act_of_2 003)

My opinion is that we cannot afford tax cuts at all right now. The gov't is expecting the citizens of this country to support their out of control spending habits. The problem is that we have absolutely NO MONEY. We have been in the red for a very very long time. Unless we find ways to earn more than we spend (as a country) we will continue to spiral downward. There is very little progress possible when the elected officials are more interested in "keeping their position" as opposed to actually doing something once they are there. Its more about phot ops and taking care of lobbyists... they need to start taking care of us, and we need to hold ALL OF THEM accountable, not just the president.

03-16-2006, 10:25 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote DebraLiStarr:</font><hr> Unless we find ways to earn more than we spend (as a country) we will continue to spiral downward.

<hr /></blockquote>

The problem is, our government has no means of generating revenue. Their sole function is to distribute money. Since the only source of income for the government is taxes, they can either reduce spending to below the tax revenue, or raise taxes. If they raise taxes enough, people will be less motivated to work, and start looking for more handouts from the government, which means more spending which means higher taxes which means...you get the picture.
We have to be willing to cut every non-essential government program...but the problem here is every one wants to cut the other guys program, but not his own. So the budget problems are in a big part caused by the people who demand more government programs...and the lawmakers who give them to them.
That's way to complicated to figure out...it's much easier to just blame the president!

03-17-2006, 11:14 AM
Congress just approved raising the deficit ceiling to 9 trillion. They are more interested in getting reelected than being resposible. Especially given the fact it is an election year this is no surprise.
The only way to get this problem under control is for those idiots to spend less than they have coming in....I personally don't see it happening. They will just pass the buck to the next one elected, and then he/she will blame the one that just left while continuing to do the same. The old revolving door thing on the good ole boy system inside the beltway. I still say get rid of the professional politicians and elect someone with some backbone.
A good exaple is the ex head of the house. Even though he appears to be less than honest, the people in his district still voted for him here in Texas by a wide margin in the Rep. primary.
Reminds me of the criminal justice system. If you got enough cash you can get about anything (look at OJ and Martha, if that had been you or me we would still be under the jail).

03-17-2006, 11:19 AM
Congress just approved raising the deficit ceiling to 9 trillion. <hr /></blockquote> Yup, completely insane. If we were not in a war, and never attacked Saddam you would have thought this government was of the extreme left.


Gayle in MD
03-18-2006, 08:06 AM
Amazing, isn't it? How the intellectual, oh so well educated right, don't seem to notice who writes the budget, and who has had not one single veto since in office, and whose administration has run up more National, and budget deficits than any administration in the history of this country! I say vote every single one of them out, both parties, get rid of them all.


Oh, that's right, it's Clinton's fault, and Roosevelt's, Kennedy and Carter, LMAO! /ccboard/images/graemlins/smirk.gif Oh, and all those damn Democrqats that have been calling the shots for the last five plus years. AH HA HA HA

Gayle in Md.

03-18-2006, 08:25 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote eg8r:</font><hr>Yup, completely insane. If we were not in a war, and never attacked Saddam you would have thought this government was of the extreme left.

eg8r <hr /></blockquote>

yea, those Republicans have historically been so good about the debt.