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Special Report Roundtable - June 22

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Pro-growth economic policies are creating plenty of revenues, and now the task is to make sure that we keep your spending down to a reasonable level, and that's why they got the president to veto it.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID (D) NEVADA: I don't know what they have down there. I guess it's a big rubberstamp stamp--"Veto." See, they're in a unique situation, because for six years they didn't have Congress to deal with, and this is very frustrating to them. And so they can take their rubberstamp and you know what they can do with it.

BAIER: Well, the Senate Majority Leader really never said what they can do with it, but you get the point there. Talking about presidential vetoes, the president has issued three in this presidency, two of them on stem cell legislation.

Now what? Now some analytical observations from Mort Kondrake, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," Jeff Birnbaum, Columnist for the Washington Post, and syndicated Columnist Charles Krauthammer, Fox News contributers all.

Mort, they're obviously girding for more vetoes. It's part of the strategy, they've talked about it a lot. Where do they go from here?

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well, it looks like a lot of vetoes. We have a long way to go before these Appropriation Bills are actually agreed upon and sent to the President. But what he's signaling is that if they go over his limits, the budget limits, that he's going to veto.

And there are 11 out of the 12 Appropriation Bills that are coming down the line that there are veto threats against at the moment. The Democrats don't have the votes to override the veto. Eventually, depending on how much combat they want to engage in, there's going to have to be a deal in order to fund the government.

But we could have a lot of sturm and drang before then, or maybe even a government shutdown. The question is, you know, who benefits politically from it? In 1995, when the Republicans forced a shutdown of the government, and Bill Clinton participated in that by vetoing bills, it was the Republicans who suffered. In this case it might be the Democrats who suffer.

BAIER: Jeff, Democrats are saying that the Republicans are finding new religion here on cutting back spending after they controlled both houses in Congress. These vetoes are definitely trying to cut spending.

JEFF BIRNBAUM, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Without question.

I guess that the White House has made a calculation that fiscal restraint, for a change, is a winning political issue. And I think that Rob Portman, the current Budget Chief at the Whitehouse had a lot to do with persuading the president of that. He believes that the wipeout of Republicans in his own home state of Ohio was, in part, because of the lack of fiscal restraint and discipline shown by the president and the Republican Party over the last several years.

But I think that Mort's question is the right one. Who would win in a veto battle of this kind? There's plenty of Democrats who believe that they don't want the president to win on anything, basically, give him much, if any legislation, because going down to the Rose Garden will be a victory not just for him but for the Republican party, and they're back on their heels now.

And so there will be a lot of finger pointing, and I think it's really up in the air who would win in a battle, politically, in the end.

BAIER: I mean, Charles, the President's ratings are down in the dumps--27 to 30 percent. But Congress is worse, right?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's right. Well, I don't think that anyone is going to win out of this, but I think when Harry Reid says of the president that this is all for show--and this isn't the first time that you'll hear me say this and I hope the last--but Harry Reid is right. This is for show.

The president for six years, when the Republicans were in charge, didn't do a thing about spending, and it was out of control--earmarks flying out the windows, being compiled in the dead of night. And the Republicans are the ones, themselves, who recognize how much that hurt them in the elections last year.

So, with a year and a half to go, the president wants to reclaim the mantle of fiscal responsibility for his party. And I suspect it's a good strategy. He'll be able to wield the pen over and over again.

However, if you look at the actual amounts, they're reasonably trivial. He's talking about an overage by the Democrats of about $22 billion out of $920 billion, which is about 2 percent. And $22 billion in a budget of $3 trillion in an economy of $13 trillion is lunch money.

Now, it's real money, but it's still lunch money. And I'm not sure how much mileage the president will get out of a cut that is so minimal, and I can't see anybody shutting the government over a cut that is so minimal.

BAIER: Last word on the vetoes, but there likely will be more. Many more.

Up next on the panel, the Senate passes a new Energy Bill. We'll look at the political winners and losers in that and what it means for you at home. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SEN HARRY REID, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The tax package that came out of Finance Committee was a very conservative $34 billion over 10 years. Don't you think the oil companies can afford $34 billion over 10 years when they have a trillion dollars in profit? I think so. We're going to figure out a way to bring it back.

BAIER: Well, that was the Senate Majority Leader today talking about a way to bring back taxing oil companies. The Senate Energy Bill passed last night. It did not include that. What did it include? And what does it mean to you?

We're back with our panel. Mort, the biggest issue here was the cafe standards raising the fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon, right?

KONDRAKE: Well, there was a lot of the stuff that was in this bill, but that's the deal that made this bill passable by the Senate, and it passed by a fairly wide margin.

This was a minimalist bill compared to what the Democratic sponsors had hoped for. I mean, they wanted this big tax on oil companies, repealing tax breaks, by the way, that the Republicans when they were in control of Congress put in 2005 in order to encourage domestic production of oil and natural gas. So now the Democrats want to take that away and give it to renewables.

So, I mean, what you've got here is--Republicans think that real men, if you got testosterone, you believe in drilling for oil and natural gas, and digging for coal, and you are a wimp if you believe in renewables. Democrats are the exact opposite, that only pigs like oil, natural gas and coal, and that the green future lies in wind, you know. They can't seem to ever get together under the proposition that we need it all.

We need to reduce all kinds of restrictions that we've got on drilling, like in ANSR and offshore and nuclear power. We've got to have more in the way of transmission lines--all of this stuff. And so they keep batting their heads together.

BIRNBARM: There were some important omissions in this bill, I think, clearly. There wasn't anything about nuclear energy, and the president has been pushing, probably for good reason, more nuclear energy.

But it's not true that this--we really shouldn't look at this Energy Bill alone. Because just a few years ago, a huge energy bill passed the Congress and was signed into law that included all sorts of incentives for drilling of oil and natural gas, and the Republicans in the Senate had a huge victory yesterday when it defeated an effort by the Democrats to take away those energy incentives and replace them with renewable fuels incentive.

So, basically, what is on track here is to have both, which I think both the President and the Democrats should be pretty happy about.

BAIER: What were the prospects, Charles, in the House, and that this actual Senate legislation makes it to the president's desk?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it's likely to pass the House. It will even be more liberal, it might actually include a tax on the oil companies. The president will veto it, and he should.

Look, this is a classic example of Congress' parasite--oil companies who produce oil, Congress produces wind. Unfortunately, not enough to power a car.

They have huge profits, yes, and they invest it in huge investments to get oil out of places that are extremely hard to get the oil out of. And the reason that prices are high and profits are high is not because there's gouging, it's because there's a lack of supply.

And the bill does nothing about getting a supply that's waiting in the Arctic, a million barrels a day, American oil for American companies, and this, again, does nothing about that--or drilling in the continental shelf.

Unless you're serious about increasing our supply, our prices are going to remain very high and without any change.

BAIER: You ran out the clock again, Charles. Thanks.

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