Print media uncritically reported Bush's criticism of Congress' "last minute" appropriations

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

In articles on President Bush's December 20 press conference, the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today uncritically reported Bush's criticism of Congress for passing all but two of the fiscal year 2008 appropriations bills as a single omnibus appropriations bill "at the last minute, nearly three months after the end of the fiscal year." But none of the articles noted that during his seven years in the White House, Bush has never signed all of Congress' appropriations bills into law before the beginning of the fiscal year, and has on two occasions signed omnibus spending bills on dates later than that on which the fiscal year 2008 bill passed.

In December 21 articles on President Bush's press conference a day earlier, the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today uncritically reported Bush's criticism of Congress for passing all but two of the fiscal year (FY) 2008 appropriations bills as a single omnibus appropriations bill "at the last minute, nearly three months after the end of the fiscal year." The House of Representatives passed the bill on December 19, and the Senate passed it on December 18. But none of the articles noted that during his seven years in the White House, Bush has never signed all of Congress' appropriations bills into law before the beginning of the fiscal year, and has on two occasions signed omnibus spending bills on dates later than that on which the FY 2008 bill passed. Indeed, the GOP-controlled Congress failed to pass 10 of the 12 individual appropriations bills for FY 2007.

In his opening statement at the press conference, Bush said:

I'm disappointed that Congress resorted to passing all this spending in one massive, more than 1,400-page omnibus bill, rather than considering and passing individual spending bills in the normal process. The omnibus bill was approved at the last minute, nearly three months after the end of the fiscal year. When Congress wastes so much time and leaves its work to the final days before Christmas it is not a responsible way to run this government.

The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and USA Today each quoted a portion of the above statement, while the Post paraphrased Bush's assertion. From the AP article:

But that did not stop him from presenting a litany of complaints. Bush said he was disappointed Congress had lumped government spending into a single 1,400-page omnibus bill. "When Congress wastes so much time and leaves its work to the final days before Christmas, it is not a responsible way to run this government," he said.

From the Los Angeles Times article:

Bush sent a two-pronged message to lawmakers: He praised them for passing the energy bill and legislation to fund the federal government for the coming year, but disparaged them for waiting until the last minute and lumping the spending bills into one package.

"When Congress wastes so much time and leaves its work to the final days before Christmas, it is not a responsible way to run this government," he said.

From the New York Times article:

But reflecting the partisan divides that overshadowed those accomplishments, he promptly criticized Congress, citing a sluggish pace of work, refusal to adopt other pieces of legislation important to the White House and its affection for pet spending projects known as earmarks.

"The omnibus bill was approved at the last minute, nearly three months after the end of the fiscal year," Mr. Bush said, returning to a near-constant theme of accusing the Democrats who control Congress of fiscal irresponsibility. "When Congress wastes so much time and leaves its work to the final days before Christmas, it is not a responsible way to run this government."

From the USA Today article:

Still, the president criticized Congress for including nearly 12,000 projects at lawmakers' requests in two spending bills, including a 1,482-page measure passed 80 days into 2008 fiscal year. "It is not a responsible way to run this government," he said.

From the Post article:

His sharp message on earmarks, though, stirred consternation on Capitol Hill and anticipation among fiscal conservatives. Calling Congress irresponsible for lumping 11 spending bills into a single, 1,400-page measure nearly three months into the fiscal year, he added, "Another thing that's not responsible is the number of earmarks that Congress included." While Congress "made some progress" curbing pet projects, he said that "they have not made enough progress."

None of the above articles noted that Bush has never signed all the appropriations bills into law before the beginning of the fiscal year, which starts on October 1 of the preceding year. Moreover, the articles did not mention that on two occasions, Bush signed omnibus spending bills on dates further into the fiscal year than mid-December:

  • The GOP-controlled Congress failed to pass 10 of the 12 individual appropriations bills for FY 2007, with the balance of funding provided by a series of continuing resolutions.
  • Bush signed 11 individual appropriations bills for FY 2006. Only the Interior and Legislative Branch Appropriations were signed before the beginning of FY 2006. The Defense Appropriation and the Labor/Health and Human Services/Education Appropriation bills were not signed until December 30, 2005.
  • On December 8, 2004, Bush signed an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2005, which included nine of the original 13 appropriations bills. Only the Defense Appropriations bill was signed before the beginning of FY 2005.
  • On January 23, 2004, Bush signed an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2004, which included seven of the original 13 appropriations bills. Only the Defense and Legislative Branch Appropriations bills were signed before the beginning of FY 2004.
  • On February 20, 2003, Bush signed an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2003, which included 11 of the original 13 appropriations bills. None of the bills was signed before the beginning of FY 2003.
  • Bush signed 13 individual appropriations bills for FY 2002. None of the bills was signed before the beginning of FY 2002. He did not sign the Defense, Foreign Operations, or Labor/Health and Human Services/Education Appropriations bills until January 10, 2002.
Posted In
Economy, Budget
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press
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