Most casual observers of the Washington political scene appear to believe that this year’s budget standoff will end like all of the other budget confrontations over the last decade. Eventually both sides will recognize that neither can win and that a continued stalemate will be bad for the entire country. But there are many signs that this year will be different. It would almost be easier to imagine this White House coming to the table to negotiate a political solution to Iraq than it would be to see them sitting down to find common ground on the budget with the Democratic Congress.
The largest single victim of this standoff will be education. Bush's budget for this year proposes less than $61 billion for the Department of Education—$5.4 billion less than the amount contained in the appropriation bill that has already passed the House and $1.3 billion less than the Education Department received last year. The entire difference between Congress and the White House adds up to only about two weeks worth of U.S. operations in Iraq.
Opinion research shows broad support for expanding rather than cutting support for local schools. But unless 290 House Members and 66 Senators are willing to override an almost certain veto (that will require substantial numbers of Republicans in both houses) we are headed for a stalemate likely to spill over into next year. So far Republicans appear more willing to simply give up their seats in Congress than to tell the President he is wrong---even when he takes a position as unpopular as cutting federal assistance to local schools.