President doesn't need to wait for line-item veto

May 11, 2010

President Obama plans to call on Congress to give him (and future Presidents) line-item veto power, which would allow the President to strike specific provisions from spending bills that he otherwise plans to sign.  Since the line-item veto could be used to eliminate wasteful, unnecessary spending, it would be a powerful tool for advancing fiscal responsibility.

Three cheers for the President for seeking this authority.  Yet the President shouldn’t wait to hear back from Congress on his request.  Since 1974 Presidents have had what’s referred to as “rescission authority,” under which Presidents can request Congress remove items from already passed and signed appropriations bills.  For the spending to be permanently canceled, Congress would have to vote on the President’s request.  After 45 days, if Congress hasn’t affirmed the President’s request, then the money is spent anyway.

Though not by any means a silver bullet in eliminating all wasteful spending, the use of rescission serves another useful purpose: it would force lawmakers to take a stand, either for or against overspending.

The Republican minority leader has been encouraging the President to use rescission authority and has come up with a list of $375 billion that he believes deserves to be cut. Given just how bloated our budget has become, we are certain that the $375 billion is just a small fraction of what deserves to be cut. But it certainly would be a place to start.

We are glad the President is seeking new tools to combat wasteful spending from Congress. But in the meantime, he should put existing tools to use.

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