President Bush finally vetoed a bill.
He vetoed the bill providing for Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Now, I suppose that you think this post is going to be about stem cells. But it's not. I've read probably close to a dozen posts on stem cells today on various blogs ranging from extreme left to center-right, so the topic has been pretty well covered by now. If you can't find a post on stem cells somewhere then you aren't looking very hard (and I've blogged on them before).
This post is going to be about vetoes.
The President has not vetoed a single bill in five and a half years, until today.
There are several reasons for this.
The first one is obvious enough but bears repeating anyway. The President is a member of the same party as is predominant in the House and Senate. So, most of the legislation they have sent him, he's signed enthusiastically. For awhile, Tom DeLay could get pretty much any product that he wanted, on the customers desk. So when the President wanted a bill, DeLay delivered the votes. So of course, President Bush never vetoed a bill, because he and DeLay had choreographed what they wanted in them months ealier.
There is another, more insidious reason the President has not previously issued a veto. That is because he has often accompanied the signing of bills that he does not like with 'signing statements' in which he claims the right to negate parts or all of them. The most obvious example of this was the prohibition on torture that the Senate passed. He signed it with a statement that he could ignore the provisions 'in the event of a national emergency.' Since he also gets to decide when it is a 'national emergency,' the effect of this is that he ignores the law and acts as though it didn't exist (essentially returning to the conditions that caused the Senate to pass the law in the first place.) What this makes it clear is that this President believes he is above the law. If there was one thing that Watergate showed, it is that the President is not above the law. But then that Congress was far more willing than this one to hold the President accountable for breaking the law.
This being an eleection year, however, and with the President's ratings in the toilet and DeLay gone, it's not so surprising that Republicans in Congress would like to show that they are independent. And the President would have a tough time issuing a signing statement that included a national security exemption to a bill on stem cell research. At the end of the day though, the house failed to override his veto, indicating that he still has the ability to tell them what to do, at least in terms of the end result.