The Obama administration on Thursday told House and Senate appropriators
that the president will veto any 2012 spending bills that contain
provisions blocking top administration priorities like healthcare and
Revamping its semi-dormant mantra of “winning the future,” the White House also threatened a veto if the final version of spending bills cuts funding too much or fails to fund investments in education, innovation or infrastructure.
The letter contains a five-page list of top administration priorities. Not surprisingly, the administration sides with priorities of the 12 bills produced by Senate Democrats over those produced by the House GOP. Both chambers must reconcile their versions to get the bills to the president's desk.
The administration strongly opposes policy riders that “undermine” the Affordable Care Act; the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill; health, safety and worker protections; environmental protections; and those that “abandon settled approaches to divisive social issues.” The last reference appears to refer to riders such as one in the House Labor appropriations bill defunding Planned Parenthood over its abortion services.
“The swift passage of appropriations legislation should not be jeopardized by ideological provisions that have no place in funding legislation,” Lew writes. He noted that in the April deal on 2011 spending most riders were taken off the table. In the end, the only rider included was one stopping the District of Columbia from funding abortions.
Lew urged Congress to avoid further stopgap funding measures and complete work on the 12 annual appropriations bills. The government is running on a temporary spending bill until Nov. 18, and House Republicans and Senate Democrats are slowly moving toward a conference committee on the 2012 measures.
Lew’s letter notes that the summer debt-ceiling agreement set out an overall spending level $7 billion lower than 2011’s. He says “cutting already-tight discretionary program levels even further would be a serious mistake.”
House Republican leaders have decided to stick to the debt-ceiling agreement, but about 50 conservative members of the caucus have been pushing for more cuts. The rift means that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will likely have to rely on Democratic help to get the appropriations bills through the chamber.