Hours before President Bush delivers the final State of the Union address of his presidency, Bush said he plans to warn Congress that in his remaining month in office, he will veto any bill that doesn't cut earmarks by 50 percent.
"Tonight I'm going to be speaking about the fact that last year I stood before Congress and said 'the American people expect you to earn their trust by cutting down the number of earmarks," Bush told ABC News Radio's White House correspondent Ann Compton in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office.
Going further than he has ever gone on the issue, Bush is threatening to veto any legislation that doesn't cut by 50 percent the so-called pork-barrel spending and special projects that members fight to get for their home districts.
"These are special interest projects put in to conference reports and never voted on. There's not hearings on whether they make sense, and they are not voted on by the Congress," Bush said.
"Last year I asked [Congress to] voluntarily reduce those. This year I am going to veto any bill that doesn't cut them by 50 percent and will issue an executive order tomorrow to make it clear to agencies that money will not be spent unless it's been voted on by the Congress," Bush told Compton.
Listen to the interview HERE.
Last week, Republicans in Congress called on for "an immediate moratorium" on earmarking money for pet projects and urged Democrats to join them in establishing a bipartisan panel to set strict new standards for such spending.
"Pork-barrel spending has outraged American families and eroded public confidence in our institution," Republican leaders wrote in a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Friday. "Both of our parties bear responsibility for this failure."
With public approval of Congress is at record-low levels, the White House today is highlighting earmark reform as a major item in the president's final State of the Union address.
"Tonight in his State of the Union address, the president will announce unprecedented steps he is taking to reduce and reform earmarks," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Monday.
The Republicans appear to be trying to get out in front of the issue, however Democrats in Congress argue it was they who adopted the toughest earmark reform in the history of Congress when they seized power in 2006 and reduced the number of earmarks last year.
Bush isn't expected to lay out any bold new policy plans as he has in the past.
Instead, the president will attempt to reassure Americans nervous about the economy, remind the nation about improved security in Iraq, and will attempt to frame the last days of his complex presidential legacy.
Bush tells ABC News he will urge Congress to pass the bipartisan $150 billion economic stimulus package intended to ward off economic recession. He told Ann Compton he does not foresee a recession. The legislation would distribute rebate checks of up to $1,200 to 117 million families in an effort to revive the economy.
The Office of the House Majority leader tells ABC News the House will debate and vote on the economic stimulus package Tuesday.
The president is also expected to cite money for AIDS in Africa, which he visits mid-February, and will underscore the reduction of violence in Iraq as a result of the military troop buildup he ordered last January.
He is also expected to press lawmakers to reauthorize a domestic surveillance law that expires Friday.
The address comes as Bush slides increasingly into lame-duck territory, racking up miles globe-trotting around the world focusing on foreign relations, as the nation is increasingly focused on the 2008 presidential election race.
Bush and his team of three speech writers have been honing this year's State of the Union address since December.
After more than seven years in the White House, the president faces a Congress led by Democrats, and an American public who largely believe the war in Iraq was a mistake, and who are worried about the economy.
Seventy-seven percent of Americans polled believe the country is headed off on the wrong track -- the most since the government shut down in 1996, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released earlier this month.
A majority of Americans, 66 percent, continue to disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job, and 64 percent said the war was not worth fighting. However, by far the most press concern on the minds of Americans is the flagging economy.
During his almost eight-year presidency, Bush has forged ahead with ambitious agenda items in the State of the Union, including deep tax cuts, vast changes in federal social programs, expansions of executive power and a broad remaking of energy and education policies.
But the president's second term has been defined by an unpopular war, low approval ratings and a midterm election that ushered a slim majority of Democrats to helm Congress.
Tonight's State of the Union speech is one of the last chances Bush will have to define his eight-year presidential legacy.