WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush suffered the first veto override of his seven-year-old presidency Thursday as the Senate enacted a $23 billion water resources bill despite his protest that it was too expensive. It was the first time in a decade that Congress has passed a bill over a presidential veto.
The vote was 79-14 to pass the bill. Enactment was a foregone conclusion, but it still marked a milestone for a president who spent his first six years with a much friendlier Congress controlled by his Republican Party. Now he confronts a more hostile, Democratic-controlled legislature, and Thursday's vote showed that even many Republicans will defy him on spending matters dear to their political careers.
The bill funds hundreds of Army Corps of Engineers projects, such as dams, sewage plants and beach restoration, that are important to local communities and their representatives. It also includes money for the hurricane-hit Gulf Coast and for Florida Everglades restoration efforts.
The House voted 361-54 to override the veto Tuesday. Both votes easily exceeded the two-thirds majority needed in each chamber to negate a presidential veto.
The last such veto override happened when Congress dealt President Clinton the second of his two overrides in November 1997.
Bush vetoed no bills during his first five years in office. He has since vetoed a stem cell research bill twice, an Iraq spending bill that set guidelines for troop withdrawals, and a children's health insurance bill. House and Senate Republicans managed to sustain those vetoes.
But they broke ranks on the Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, which Bush vetoed on Nov. 2, calling it too expensive.
His supporters have noted that the Army Corps has a backlog of $58 billion worth of projects and an annual budget of about $2 billion to address them.