The same George W. Bush who presided over record deficits and never vetoed a spending bill made an effort on Wednesday to co-opt the Democrats’ goal of balancing the budget by 2012. Exactly how he’ll reconcile that aim with making his tax cuts permanent remains a mystery, although Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has an idea: “Talk is cheap.”
The president’s announcements were greeted by Democrats as “me-tooism,” as one senior leadership aide put it, that closely tracked goals outlined by the new majority. The incoming House and Senate budget committee chairmen have set 2012 as a target for balancing the budget, and the incoming House and Senate appropriations chairmen have decided to freeze earmarks this year and introduce further restrictions on such spending items, which are often called pork.
In trying to adopt such ambitions as his own, Bush hopes to regain the initiative after his party lost Congress in November and to counter his reputation as a president who took a budget surplus and turned it into record deficits, analysts said. Bush has never proposed a balanced budget since it went into deficit, never vetoed a spending bill when Republicans controlled Congress and offered little sustained objection to earmarks until the issue gained political traction last year.