Its about time. Something has to be done about the pork slapped everywhere. At least with this in play, they wont try and slide things into good bills and the veto wont even have to be used. Call it the semi-nuclear option for pork.
House to Vote on Weaker Version of Line-Item Veto Power
Thursday, June 22, 2006
WASHINGTON � The House moved toward giving President Bush greater power to strip bills of "pork barrel" spending projects Thursday in a weaker version of the line-item veto law struck down by the Supreme Court in 1998.
The idea was advancing amid debate about lawmakers' penchant for stuffing parochial projects into spending bills that the president must accept or reject in their entirety. Lawmakers have rallied to support each other's projects when challenged in recent House votes.
In a test vote, the House advanced the measure for debate, 228-196. A final vote was to come late Thursday.
The bill would allow the president to single out items contained in appropriations bills he signs into law, and it would require Congress to vote on those items again. It also could be used against increases in benefit programs and tax breaks aimed at a single beneficiary.
Under the proposal, it would take a simple majority in both the House and the Senate to approve the items over the president's objections.
The hope is that wasteful spending or special interest tax breaks would be vulnerable since Congress might vote to reject such items once they are no longer protected by their inclusion in bigger bills that the president has little choice but to sign.
This legislation would give the president and Congress an important tool to reduce unjustified earmarks and wasteful spending items that are frequently incorporated into large, essential spending measures," said a White House statement.
"This bill gives Congress another set of eyes to review spending," said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.
The bill is a far weaker version of the line-item veto that Republicans in Congress gave President Clinton in 1996. That bill allowed Clinton to strike items from appropriations and tax bills unless Congress mustered a two-thirds margin to override him.
The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional two years later because it let the president single-handedly change laws passed by Congress.
It's not clear that the new spending control tool would be very effective. Congress easily mustered the two-thirds margins needed to override Clinton's 1997 vetoes of military construction projects. More recently, lawmakers have united to reject attacks by a lone conservative, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to strip from spending bills the very kind of projects the new line-item veto is aimed at attacking.
Still, the plan is eagerly embraced by Republicans and their core conservative political supporters and is a way to demonstrate election-year resolve on spending.
For their part, Democrats acidly noted the vote took place the same day the House was to vote on a 10-year, $283 billion partial repeal of estate taxes on the heirs of millionaires. And the number of pet projects slipped by lawmakers into spending bills has exploded under GOP control of Congress.
"You control all mechanisms of spending. You control the House, you control the Senate, you control the presidency and you need help before you spend again," said George Miller, D-Calif. "What is this, Comedy Central?"
But Miller and scores of other Democrats opposing the bill Thursday if fact voted for almost identical legislation in the 1990s when it was proposed as a milder alternative to other line-item veto bills.
Democrats offered but were denied a vote on an alternative that among other provisions would have reinstated lapsed pay-as-you-go rules that require tax cuts or additions to federal benefit programs be accompanied by revenue increases or spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
The Senate plans to press ahead with a far more sweeping plan to overhaul the government's arcane budget process. On Tuesday, the Senate Budget Committee approved a plan to revive the old Gramm-Rudman mechanism of setting hard deficit targets and requiring across-the-board cuts if Congress can't meet them on its own.
The Senate plan also contains the new, watered down line-item veto, and is expected to bog down quickly when brought to the floor. But so far, Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., is resisting the idea of subsequently advancing the line-item veto plan on its own.