Donald Lambro

On social issues, there is very little on the pro-life agenda that Bush has not advanced, leading to the ban on partial-birth abortions. Congress will soon vote on a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage. His support among social conservatives seems secure.

Conservatives are very much in Bush's corner on national security and the war on terrorism, and recent polls by CBS News showed that voters still trusted Bush more than the Democrats to deal with these two issues.

Perhaps the biggest complaint by far that conservatives have with the president has to do with overspending. He has never vetoed a budget bill, though there have been many that he signed that were stuffed with pork and needlessly wasted tens of billions of dollars.

The massive entitlement expansion built into Bush's prescription-drug benefits program, the largest spending increase in Medicare's history, plus record appropriations for the Department of Education and other federal bureaucracies, has only intensified conservative angst over the GOP's spending binge.

The spectacle of the Republican Senate voting to preserve ridiculous boondoggles like Mississippi's $700 million "railroad to nowhere" as part of a CSX freight line relocation plan reignited conservative anger that has worsened Bush's grassroots erosion.

If Rove and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten want to turn things around for Bush on this issue, they should find a spending bill he can veto, laying down the line that the day of endless pork-barrel projects must stop.

Unfortunately, it won't be the pending $106 billion emergency defense spending bill that has been larded with pork and includes the rail funding -- the largest single earmark ever. Vetoing a defense bill that will be critical to success in Iraq and the war on terrorism would be a political disaster.

But there will be other spending bills this year that he can veto that will send a very welcome sign to the party's troops that the GOP still stands for smaller, leaner government; and that the president means what he says when he tells Congress to cut spending.

If Republican lawmakers were to uphold Bush's veto, it would energize and reassure the GOP's base that their party still stands for limited, frugal government and that they've heard their complaints. How about it, Mr. President? Copyright 2006, United Feature Syndicate, Inc. END DONALD LAMBRO 5-15-06 Monday, May 15, 2006 United Feature Syndicate DONALD LAMBRO 1 of 2

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.