WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama plans to sign a massive spending bill to keep the federal government running, but he is cracking down on lawmakers' penchant for stuffing such legislation with billions of dollars in pet projects.
Obama could sign the $410 billion spending package as early as Wednesday, although he remains "troubled" by the so-called earmarks, funding for lawmakers' pet projects, in the bill that Republicans and moderate Democrats have eviscerated as unworthy wasteful spending. The president was to announce earmark reforms on Wednesday.
White House officials in recent weeks have dismissed criticism of the earmarks in the bill, saying the legislation was a remnant of last year and that the president planned to turn his attention to future spending instead of looking backward.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama would not be the first president to sign legislation that he viewed as less than ideal. Asked whether Obama had second thoughts about signing the bill, Gibbs' reply was curt: "No."
"This is necessary to continue funding government," Gibbs said. "It represents last year's business. Although it's not perfect, the president will sign the legislation, but demonstrate for all involved rules moving forward that he thinks can make this process work a little bit better."
It's that process that administration official planned to focus on Wednesday, not a bill signing that might take place in private. Aides said the administration would move to introduce new "rules of the road" that could allow Obama greater sway over lawmakers, particularly on politically embarrassing spending that generated mockery from pundits and rival politicians.