Some Farm Earmarks ‘Unconscionable,’ Bush Spokesman Says

Posted May 19, 2008 at 3:47pm

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Monday that it is “actually a bit of a rumor” that President Bush gave GOP lawmakers the green light to vote for the $307 billion farm bill if their districts supported it, despite his promise to veto the “bloated” spending package.

“He did not absolve anybody of their votes,” Stanzel said. “He did indicate that obviously different factors come into weighing on people’s votes. But he did not say, go ahead and vote your district.”

The president continues to oppose the farm bill on the grounds that it provides billions of dollars in subsidies to farmers, which critics have chalked up as handouts to rich people. He has also railed against the bill for spending too much money in general, notably on pet projects.

But, in a rare split with the White House, Hill Republicans last week joined Democrats in passing the conference report by a veto-proof margin in both chambers. Depending on when Bush receives the bill, Congress may be gearing up for an override vote on the measure later this week.

“The president has been disappointed with what … came through Congress,” Stanzel said. “We see a bill that is bloated, that asks taxpayers, at a time of record-high farm income, to pay … even more to wealthy farmers. And we don’t think that’s the right approach.”

“We expect that we’ll receive it sometime this week, and the president will veto it.”

Asked if Bush is disappointed in his party for supporting the bill, Stanzel said Members are allowed to respond to their districts. But he pointed to certain earmarks in the bill “that are just unconscionable.”

In particular, some programs would allow government subsidies to go to farmers even when they are receiving record-high incomes just because the price of a commodity might drop by 10 percent in the third year over the previous two years, he said.

“Obviously, Members will have to defend their votes to their constituents,” Stanzel said.