At today’s briefing, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan used the recently passed transportation bill as an example of when Bush successfully imposed fiscal restraint on Congress:
[I]f you look at some issues — let’s take the highway bill for instance — the president made it very clear that he would not sign a bill that substantially increased our deficit.
We worked with members of Congress and the amount of money that was allocated in that legislation came down significantly from where it was.
If the transportation bill is the model of fiscal discipline, the country in serious trouble. The total cost was $286.5 billion. (Presumably, McClellan is claiming victory because one early Senate version would have cost $295B.) The legislation included 6,500 pork barrel projects — earmarked for specific districts — at a cost to taxpayers of $24 billion. Sen. John McCain described the bill as “terrifying in its fiscal consequences and disappointing for the lack of fiscal discipline it represents.”
Nevertheless, it was the best example McClellan could come up with.