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Purse Snatching

We learned over the weekend that President Bush has reserved the right to disregard some 750 laws enacted during his tenure that he claims infringe on his constitutional authority as commander-in-chief. Three leading Democrats condemned the assertion and were soon joined by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, who called it a ''very blatant encroachment" on congressional authority and has vowed hearings.

This claim of "very blatant encroachment" got me thinking. Just how many "encroachments" will the Congress take before they finally stand up to this administration? My guess is the final straw may come in the form of Bush trying to usurp the one responsibility that Congress has actually taken somewhat seriously: the power of the purse.

Last week, Sen. Specter threatened to withhold funding for the NSA surveillance program if the administration were not more forthcoming with information. This week, the Senate unanimously passed an amendment to a supplemental spending bill that would prohibit funds from be appropriated for the construction of permanent bases in Iraq.

Now if either of these bills were to come before Bush, would he veto them (unlikely, at least in the case of the supplemental spending bill) or simply tack on a signing statement claiming exemption from the laws he just signed? Undoubtedly he would claim that Congress cannot dictate how he runs the "war on terror", of which the NSA program and operations in Iraq are a part. Would Congress acquiesce even though Bush has now clearly infringed on their authority as purveyors of the purse?

Perhaps a clipping of the purse strings is what is needed to get this Congress to stand up to the Bush White House.

Update: I neglected to mention that Bush has already tried to insert himself into the legislative process. Back in March, he sought line-item veto authority from Congress.

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