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Bush vetoes spending bill, tells Congress to cut the pork

  • Story Highlights
  • Bush says most of Congress "acting like a teenager with a new credit card"
  • Bill would have funded agencies, but also a prison museum, sailing school
  • House panel chairman: Bush's veto "not responsible and not credible"
  • Democrats to schedule override vote, but Bush GOP allies confident about veto
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NEW ALBANY, Indiana (CNN) -- President Bush vetoed a $600 billion spending bill Tuesday, accusing Democratic leaders of wasting money and plotting tax increases, then took his budget fight with Congress on the road.

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Congress should cut spending "and send me a responsible measure that I can sign into law," President Bush said.

"The majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far, it's acting like a teenager with a new credit card," he said in a speech in New Albany, Indiana.

The bill -- which Bush said was laden with $10 billion in "pork" -- would have funded the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. It also would have funded projects such as a prison museum, a sailing school and a program to teach Portuguese.

"Congress needs to cut out that pork, reduce the spending and send me a responsible measure that I can sign into law," the president said. Video Watch a report on the veto »

While polls show Bush's popularity remains at near-record lows, Congress ranks even lower as a whole. The president has taken numerous opportunities to mock the spending habits of the Democratic leadership and force confrontations over the appropriations bills needed to fund the government for the 2008 budget year, which began October 1.

The bill Bush vetoed Tuesday includes about $150 billion to run those departments and more than $450 billion in mandatory spending on Medicare and Medicaid, the federal health care programs for the elderly and poor, according to the House Appropriations Committee. The committee's chairman, Rep. David Obey, called Bush's veto "not responsible and not credible."

"This is a bipartisan bill supported by over 50 Republicans," Obey, D-Wisconsin, said in a statement issued after the veto. "There has been virtually no criticism of its contents. It is clear the only reason the president vetoed this bill is pure politics."

Bush said Democrats are supporting $22 billion in additional spending beyond his budget proposals this year and $205 billion over five years -- money he said would ultimately be raised by tax increases.

"When the bill for all that spending comes due, Congress is going to turn to the working people, to the small-business owners and the entrepreneurs," he said.

Tuesday's veto is the fifth cast since Democrats took control of Congress in 2006. Congress has overridden one of those, voting last week to authorize $23 billion in water projects nationwide over the president's objections.

Democrats will schedule another override vote this week, an aide to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said. But Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for House Republican Whip Roy Blunt, said Bush's GOP allies are confident they will be able to sustain the veto.

Bush signed a $470 billion Pentagon spending bill that covers the Defense Department's normal operations, but Democrats split $50 billion in spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan off into a "bridge fund" to which they plan to attach demands for Bush to withdraw U.S. combat troops. The measure sets up another confrontation with the White House.

Bush also demanded Congress reform the alternative minimum tax -- a measure originally aimed at preventing the wealthy from evading taxes, but one that increasingly affects middle-class earners -- without raising additional revenue. He said a plan proposed by Rep. Charles Rangel, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to eliminate the tax was unacceptable.

"Preventing a tax increase in one area should not be an excuse for raising taxes in other areas," he said. "Congress should eliminate the tax increases in the bill and send the AMT relief to my desk as soon as possible."

The elimination of the tax would cause an estimated $800 billion to be lost over 10 years. To replace that, Rangel's bill would add a 4 percent surtax on individual incomes over $100,000, after deductions, and close corporate tax loopholes. The bill also would cut rates for many individual and corporate taxpayers. Republicans have already started calling it "the mother of all tax increases."

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"With all the other pressures on our economy, raising taxes is one of the most unwise things Congress could possibly do," Bush said.

Bush acknowledged the difficulties Americans face from high fuel prices, a "challenged" housing market and "uncertainty" in financial markets stemming from the collapse of the subprime mortgage market -- "but as we have seen in recent years, this economy is resilient, and that's important for the American people to understand." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

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