Robert Bluey

Congressional Republicans have tried hard this year to reclaim the GOP’s traditional “brand” as the party of fiscal responsibility. They’re about to face a test that will show whether their rhetoric matches reality.

President Bush’s veto of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) on Friday puts him at odds with a majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill. And unlike other legislation that Bush has sent back to Congress, the president actually faces the prospect of having a bipartisan majority throw his veto back in his face.

Only in Washington can lawmakers sit down to negotiate two bills with price tags of $14 billion and $15 billion and come up with a “compromise” costing $23 billion. Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney recently wrote that “this bill’s growth behind closed doors certainly defies the civics-textbook explanation of how a bill becomes a law.”

In fact, the bill defies all logic. Bush’s original request came in at $4.9 billion, but it quickly ballooned as members of both parties loaded it with pork for their districts. Ultimately, virtually everyone had a goody or 10 in the bill, and it won overwhelming approval: passing the House on a 381-40 vote and the Senate by an 81-12 margin.

Despite the lopsided support for the bill, Bush made a bold move in vetoing it. “Americans sent us to Washington to achieve results and be good stewards of their hard-earned taxpayer dollars,” Bush said in a statement Friday. “This bill violates that fundamental commitment.”

In addition to citing the bill’s $23 billion price tag, Bush criticized it for authorizing more than 900 projects and programs which, he said, would exacerbate the enormous backlog of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ construction projects. The White House said the bill would wind up costing taxpayers an additional $38 billion.

Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at