Clinton Vetoes Foreign Aid Bill; Defense Bill May Be Next

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

( - President Clinton Monday vetoed a $12.6 billion foreign aid bill as inadequate and called on Republican congressional leaders to join the administration in seeking a solution to the budget impasse.

The foreign aid bill passed despite opposition from congressional Democrats and the White House, who claim it shortchanges American foreign policy interests such as funding the Wye River Middle East peace deal.

Presidential press secretary Joe Lockhart said the foreign aid bill "doesn't meet the president's priorities. Wye River is certainly an important element to that and it is an important part of continuing to exercise US leadership around the world. We can't expect nations in troubled parts of the world, like the Middle East, to move forward with their peace process when we won't meet the commitments we've made."

Clinton's foreign aid veto is the 28th veto of his presidency and is likely to stand any possible congressional override.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, in a statement on Capitol Hill, said that the extra money Clinton wants can only be obtained by raiding the Social Security trust fund, which Hastert called "wrong and irresponsible. Congress will not use Social Security as a pot of gold to fund foreign aid."

The aid, as passed by Congress, provided $2 billion less than Clinton asked for and includes none of the $500 million down payment he had sought to help Israel and the Palestinians carry out the Wye River peace accord.

The bill also provided less money than Clinton wanted for international debt relief, the Peace Corps and for efforts to reduce the nuclear threat from North Korea and other countries.

At the time he vetoed the foreign aid in the White House cabinet room, Clinton called on congressional leaders to come to the White House to work out the budget impasse. "We need to sit down and do it together," Clinton said. "We have to put politics aside and seek common ground."

Clinton also said he would sign another emergency spending measure to keep the government running beyond Thursday, but that it would be a short term measure.

The President accused Republicans of shortchanging needs on education, the environment and foreign affairs, especially the Wye River Middle East Peace accord.

Meanwhile, presidential press secretary Joe Lockhart indicated a veto of the defense spending bill may be coming. "That is under consideration," Lockhart said. He went on to say, the defense spending bill is "beyond what the president requested and there are also a number of gimmicks in it. They make operations and maintenance an emergency. The Pentagon is a pretty big building, but I don't know if you can go over there and find one person who considers the operations and maintenance of armed forces an emergency."