President Bush railed against Congress Friday for trying to "micromanage" the government, saying its practices confuse the public and create vast unnecessary spending of tax dollars.
In a speech at Princeton University on the powers of the presidency, Bush said, "The most common challenge to presidential powers comes from a predictable source . . . the United States Congress."He said Congress exceeds the mandate of the Founding Fathers, who "never envisioned a Congress that would turn out hundreds of thousands of pages of reports and hearings and documents and laws every year.
"They did understand that legislators would try to accumulate power," he said, adding that sometimes "this sort of competition falls entirely within the bounds of the Constitution."
But Congress often makes unnecessary requests that waste the time of the executive branch, he said, adding that the Pentagon alone "has to respond yearly to more than 750,000 congressional staff inquiries."
In fiscal 1989, the Pentagon "devoted 500 man years and over $50 million just to write reports responding to congressional queries," he said. A total of 107 committees and subcommittees oversee defense programs and spending, he said.
"Other executive agencies exhaust their time and energy, often giving identical testimony to a whole battery of subcommittees and committees," said Bush.
"Oversight when properly exercised helps keep the executive accountable. But when it proliferates wildly it can confuse the public and make it more difficult for Congress and the president to do their jobs properly," he said in a speech at the dedication of a new Princeton social sciences building.
Turning to a favorite theme, Bush also called for line-item veto power over the federal budget instead of the up-or-down approval he now must give to the entire package.
Bush said the budget becomes so complex and riddled with arcane measures that Congress "members often don't know what they voted for."
Bush was described as "resolute yet compassionate" as he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Princeton University on his first venture out of town since a thyroid problem was diagnosed.
Aides said he was scaling back his hectic schedule, but only a little.
A crowd of more than 100 demonstrators chanted anti-Bush slogans as the president's limousine pulled up to Nassau Hall.
After having the black and orange Princeton colors draped around his neck, Bush said, "I hear the rites of spring over my shoulder out there . . .
"But I hope I bring peace and tranquility to your campus because you bring great joy to our heart - my former fibrillating heart," Bush said in what has become a standard joke line referring to the irregular heartbeat problem he suffered.