Obama’s veto

When a president clashes with members of his own party on Capitol Hill, it always attracts headlines.

Last month was no exception, as the White House indicated that President Obama would veto any bill that pays for additional F-22 fighter jets.

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The defense authorization bill that came out of the Senate Armed Services Committee includes an allocation of $1.75 billion to buy an additional seven planes that the Pentagon doesn’t want. That funding narrowly passed the panel even though Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) are on the president’s side.

After the threat was issued, Levin said he doubted that his defense bill would actually be vetoed.

But Obama made it clear on Monday that he is serious. In a letter to Congress, he stated, “I will veto any bill that supports acquisition of F-22s beyond the 187 already funded by Congress. To continue to procure additional F-22s would be to waste valuable resources that should be more usefully employed to provide our troops with the weapons that they actually do need.”

The battle over F-22s is not partisan, but it pits a Democratic president against a Democratic Congress.

Obama is worried about the massive deficit and is trying to signal that he is looking to curb spending in some areas of the budget.

Even though these showdowns may lead to some uncomfortable moments between him and congressional leaders, they are necessary. Part of the reason for the downfall of the GOP in 2006 was that President George W. Bush didn’t veto a single bill that emerged from Congress when it was under Republican control.

The lack of a veto helped Democrats, who repeatedly charged that Congress was a rubber stamp for Bush’s policies. Unable to point to a single veto in six years, Republicans took the political hit.

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In hindsight, Republicans say Bush should have vetoed one bill — any bill — between 2001 and 2006. He vetoed bills in 2007 and 2008, stymieing Democratic efforts to end the Iraq war and pass appropriations bills. But his vetoes in the last Congress on Medicare, a water measure and the farm bill were overridden.

Obama and congressional Democrats are not following the GOP model of governing, which will probably serve them well in the future.

The president needs to threaten and execute vetoes occasionally, even when it is his own party colleagues who send him the offending piece of legislation. Tension between the legislative and executive branches, even when they are controlled by one party, has its merits.

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