Bush Signs Budget Bill, Takes One More Dig At Congress

The most tense budget standoff in a dozen years came to an official end Wednesday when President Bush signed the omnibus appropriations bill into law.

But the president took one last shot at Congress in a signing statement.

"I am disappointed in the way the Congress compiled this legislation, including abandoning the goal I set early this year to reduce the number and cost of earmarks by half," Bush said. "Instead, the Congress dropped into the bill nearly 9,800 earmarks that total more than $10 billion."

But in the signing statement released today, the president did not mention his administration's exploration of legal ways to kill earmarks by executive order, making it unclear whether he will actually try to unilaterally delete lawmakers' pet projects. A Congressional Research Service report released last week indicated that the president does have the authority to ignore earmarks that have been embedded in committee report language -- as most of them are -- instead of the actual legislation. Report language is legally non-binding, but it's where lawmakers tend to add earmarks for their hometown projects.

Such a move to start killing off congressional earmarks could start an all out war with Congress, and a White House spokesman on Wednesday did not directly answer whether the administration was going to push ahead on this idea.

"No decisions have been made on that front, but ... last week, [Bush] talked about directing the OMB Director, Jim Nussle, to look at ways -- or look at avenues by which the federal government can address those earmarks," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel told reporters today.