Crawford, Texas — President Bush on Wednesday signed a $555 billion spending bill that will pay for a large share of government operations in 2008, but complained that Congress did not do enough to restrict pork-barrel expenditures and was not providing enough money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I am disappointed in the way the Congress compiled this legislation," he said in a statement. "Congress dropped into the bill nearly 9,800 earmarks that total more than $10 billion. These projects are not funded through a merit-based process and provide a vehicle for wasteful government spending."
Bush said he hoped Congress would help "rein in government spending" when he submits a new budget in February.
Deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel said the president had asked for options to curb special-interest spending. Stanzel told reporters aboard Air Force One that "no decisions have been made" but that Bush had asked Jim Nussle, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to "look at avenues by which the federal government can address those earmarks."
Stanzel said Bush signed the budget measure soon after boarding the aircraft. Bush is continuing a winter vacation that began Friday at Camp David, Md., and is scheduled to run until New Year's Day at his home near here.
He also signed a bill that freezes the alternative minimum tax for one year, the spokesman said. If Congress had not acted, the AMT would have hit an estimated 25 million Americans for the first time next year.
In his written statement, Bush signaled that Congress' attempts to specify a date for withdrawal from Iraq would continue to be met with White House resistance. Calling the appropriations bill's provisions for military spending "a down payment," he asked Congress to "quickly take action next year to provide the remainder of the funding needed by our troops."
Ending a months-long standoff with the president, Congress last week completed work on the budget measure that covers government spending through Sept. 30.
While Congress held closely to the overall spending limit that Bush sought, it shifted billions of dollars to meet the Democratic majority's priorities.