WASHINGTON -- President Bush made good on his promise to veto the $6.4 billion extended unemployment benefits bill Friday, while House leaders unveiled their revised highway bill and expressed hopes that it would pass by the end of this week.
In a brief ceremony with congressional Republican leaders in the White House Oval Office, the President sent the unemployment bill back to Congress for a likely override battle this week. Mr. Bush rejected the bill principally because it fails to adhere to the budget law's requirement that new mandatory benefits be offset with increased revenues or spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
While the House passed the bill with a large margin that Democratic leaders had said made it "veto-proof," it may be more difficult for the Senate to muster the votes to overrule the President. Two weeks ago, the Senate passed the bill by 65 to 34, falling two votes short of the two-thirds margin needed for an override.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders announced a markup for tomorrow on the highway bill, which reemerged on Thursday only slightly slimmed down after weeks of backroom negotiations aimed at rewriting the bill to reflect the leadership's decision last month to drop its proposed 5-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase.
As expected, to accomodate the loss of gas tax revenues, the bill now stretches out its proposed $151 billion of highway and mass transit spending over six years instead of five, and proposes extending the 2.5-cent gas tax incrase enacted last year to pay for spending that occurs in 1996 and 1997.
The leadership downsized the previous $153.5 billion version of the bill by dropping about $3 billion of its much-publicized "pork barrel" projects, which were included at the request of individual House members.