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Spending Bill Tests Obama's Credibility

At an event this morning, President Obama again demanded that the government he now heads "turn the tide on an era of fiscal irresponsibility."

But his credibility on the issue is at risk if he goes ahead with plans to sign the $410 billion spending bill now making its way to final passage in Congress.

The measure is rife with earmarks – special spending provisions attached by members of Congress, usually to benefit a home district project. There are 8,570 earmarks on this bill that if enacted will cost taxpayers $7.7 billion.

The White House says the legislation is leftover from last year and that President Obama will work to reduce future wasteful spending.

In other words, the White House says the president will really get tough on spending right after he looks the other way and green lights $410 billion in spending for the current fiscal year.

"We'll change the rules going forward," says spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Earlier today, President Obama announced a new push to eliminate cost overruns and other wasteful spending in federal contracting. He said he wants to "enhance accountability and avoid leaving our children a mountain of debt."

Actually, the mountain taking shape on his watch will give Everest a run for the money.

The budget plan the president issued last week shows the National Debt climbing to record heights of $16.2-trillion by the end of his four-year term. That amounts to an increase of $5.6-trillion on his watch – more than the $4.9 trillion run up by President Bush.

And when it comes to changing congressional rules on earmarks, Mr. Obama is being told to butt out – by none other than a top Democrat.

"I don't think the White House has the ability to tell us what to do," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, telling reporters, "I hope you all got that down."

"I saw those remarks," said Gibbs, who then reiterated the president's commitment to work with Congress to reduce wasteful spending.

Just none contained in the earmarks of the spending bill headed his way.

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
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