Thursday, March 23, 2006

1,889 days and no vetoes: Bush gaining on Jefferson

1,889 days and no vetoes: Bush gaining on Jefferson
By Richard Benedetto, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — President Bush Thursday becomes the longest-sitting president since Thomas Jefferson not to exercise his veto, surpassing James Monroe. (Related: Republicans work together)

Monroe was in office 1,888 days before he vetoed his first bill on May 4, 1822, a measure to impose a toll on the first federal highway. Jefferson never exercised his veto during two terms in 1801-09.

Thursday is Bush's 1,889th day in office, and no veto is in sight. As of Wednesday, Congress had sent him 1,091 bills. He signed them all.

Bush came close to a veto last month when Congress threatened to block a deal to turn over operations at ports in six states to a company owned by the Arab emirate of Dubai. He threatened a veto, but he avoided a showdown when the Dubai company decided to sell that part of its business to American interests.

"After that, we're not likely to hear a veto threat from him that much again," says G. Calvin Mackenzie, government professor at Maine's Colby College.

Some analysts say Bush's failure to use his veto shows an unwillingness to confront fellow Republicans who control Congress. "He doesn't want to fight battles unnecessarily and create a distance between himself and his party," says Mark Rozell, a George Mason University political scientist who has studied presidential vetoes.

Others say Bush's avoidance of the veto is a sign of strength. "Bush and his party are so close on most issues that there's no need to veto," Mackenzie says.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., scoffs at that: "This is a rubber-stamp Congress. Why would he veto anything?"

Still others say it is a matter of Bush's management style. "He's a CEO kind of guy. He gives his orders, delegates the negotiating to others and is willing to live with the outcome," says Robert McClure, a political scientist at Syracuse University's Maxwell School.

Bush has used veto threats to shape bills more to his liking. For example, the House wanted $370 billion for last year's highway bill; the Senate, $318 billion. Bush drew the line at $256 billion, then compromised at $286.4 billion, more than he wanted but far below the House and Senate levels.

Bush said Tuesday that the veto threat has helped him reduce the rate of domestic spending: "One reason why I haven't vetoed any appropriation bills is because they met the benchmarks we've set."

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