Friday, November 7, 2008

Line-item Veto. What is it? Where did it go?

Remember when President Bush spoke frequently regarding the line-item veto? What is a line-item veto? What became of the attempt to get that through Congress?

"In government, the line-item veto is the power of an executive to nullify or "cancel" specific provisions of a bill, usually budget appropriations, without vetoing the entire legislative package." -- Wikipedia

Did you know that power of the line-item veto has not actually been given to anyone except for a brief time with Reagan and then Clinton since the American Civil War in 1861. It was ruled unconstitutional in 1998. The line-item veto is a tool that is currently available for use by most U.S. governors.

"Ronald Reagan said to Congress in his 1986 State of the Union address, "Tonight I ask you to give me what forty-three governors have: Give me a line-item veto this year. Give me the authority to veto waste, and I'll take the responsibility, I'll make the cuts, I'll take the heat." Bill Clinton echoed the request in his State of the Union address in 1995." -- Wikipedia

Why has there not been an amendment to the constitution? Wouldn't the line-item veto be a prudent measure with the deficit that our country is currently producing? Wouldn't the line-item veto be a wise amendment to implement to get our country's economy back in balance?

The programs that get inserted into important bills that cause them to be vetoed ("Pork"), that tend to be placed in those bills because of lobbyists, would not get through with a line-item veto constitutional amendment. Therefore, my guess is that it won't get passed, even though it is an important amendment to get our country back on its feet.

"The President was briefly granted this power by the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, passed by Congress in order to control "pork barrel spending" that favors a particular region rather than the nation as a whole. The line-item veto was used 11 times to strike 82 items from the federal budget by President Bill Clinton." -- Wikipedia

Click here to see a history of line-item vetos.

In 1996, President Bush discussed the option of the line-item veto.

"...I'm proud to be here with John McCain ... we agree... that this country needs to have a line-item veto...

...The cornerstone of our policy has been to keep taxes low...the more money a person has in their pocket, the more likely it is this economy is going to grow. We trust people to make the right decisions on how to spend, save, and invest...

...You'll hear people say, let's balance the budget by raising taxes....They'll raise your taxes and figure out new ways to spend your money...

...A line-item veto would be a vital tool that a President could use to target spending that lawmakers tack on to the large spending bills. That's called earmarking...a lot of times, the earmark doesn't fit into the priorities that have been sent through the budgetary process. A lot of times earmarks are inserted into bills at the last minute, which leaves no time, or little time, for debate....Earmark sponsors are often not required to provide their colleagues with a reasoned justification for proposed spending...

...the number of earmarks has increased from about 3,000 to 13,000 over the last decade...I'm proposing a way to help deal with this problem. And that way is to pass a line-item veto...

...the Supreme Court struck it down because they concluded that it unconstitutionally permitted the President to unilaterally change a law passed by the Congress...And so we proposed the following type of legislation: When the President sees an earmark or spending provision that is wasteful or unnecessary, he can send it back to the Congress. And Congress is then required to hold a prompt up or down vote on whether to retain the targeted spending. In other words, the Congress is still in the process...

...I think it makes sense, no matter who the President may be. I think it makes sense for a Republican President to have a line-item veto, and I think it makes sense for a Democrat President to have a line-item veto." -- White House

The line-item veto only made it through the House. It was halted at the Senate by Senator Harry Reid and other Democratic Senators.

"Democrats have lost their enthusiasm for a modest line-item veto. "Make no mistake, this line-item veto authority would grant tremendous -- and dangerous -- new power to the president," said Sen. Robert Byrd, who supported a similar measure 12 years ago." -- The Drudge Report

"Some Members claim the item veto is a power grab by the executive branch. But it’s more accurate to say that it would restore some of the Presidential power that Congress stole in the 1970s. The budget act of 1974, passed over a weakened President Nixon, stripped the executive of the power to impound funds—that is, to refuse to spend. Presidents going back to the republic’s early days had used such authority." -- The American Conservative Union

The line-item veto was rewritten and sent through as the "Second Look at Wasteful Spending" amendment to make it more constitutionally sound and spread out the "power" so that the U.S. Congress would be deeply involved in the process, so the President wouldn't have all of the power to completely veto the earmarks, as they would get re-submitted to Congress.

"What this Second Look at Waste amendment does is allow the President on four different occasions to send back to the Congress a group of what would be earmarks in most instances for the Congress to vote on again. And essentially say to the Congress, those items which were buried in this great big bill, those specific little items, they should be reviewed, and Congress should have to vote them up or down. Congress then, by a majority vote, must vote on whether or not it approves those specific spending items. And that’s called enhanced rescission. It is not a line-item veto. A line-item veto is where the President can go in and line-item out a specific item and then send it back to the Congress, and the Congress by a two-thirds vote must vote to override the President’s proposal to eliminate the spending. In this instance, the Congress retains the right to spend this money if a majority of the Congress decides to spend the money in either House.

So as a practical matter, it’s a much, much weaker, dramatically weaker proposal than what is known as the line-item veto, which passed here in the early 1990’s and was ruled unconstitutional. It has been drafted in a way so it has been tracked very closely the language by Senator Byrd back in 1995 and was then called enhanced rescission. " -- The Hill Blog

The person who is responsible for the amendment is Senator Judd Gregg. The amendment would be made to The Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007.

Senate Republicans describe the measure as, “The holy grail for porkbusters."

Read on…

Sen. Gregg’s office put out the following information about the amendment.

"A Second Look at Wasteful Spending would help to restore fiscal discipline that the Majority Leader seeks, by giving the President the opportunity to force Congress to take a second look at wasteful spending - including both discretionary spending and new mandatory spending – as well as targeted tax cuts. Under the amendment:

• The President can send up to 4 rescission packages per year.

• Congress would be required to fast track the President’s recommendation within 8 days.

• Unlike the previous 1996 line-item veto proposal, A Second Look at Wasteful Spending requires Congressional affirmation of the President’s rescission package.

• Savings from rescissions passed by Congress must be used for deficit reduction.

• The authority sunsets after 4 years – giving Congress the ability to evaluate merits of rescission authority after President Bush and his successor have had the opportunity to use.

The amendment has nearly 30 Senate co-sponsors and is supported by the White House and a large number of business and fiscal watchdog organizations. (emphasis in original)

A senate source e-mailed to inform that negotiations were then ongoing between the Democratic leadership and Senators McConnell (R-KY) and Gregg over the amendment. Apparently the negotiations were not fruitful for the Democrats as Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) appeared on the floor to announce that there would not be a vote on the Gregg Amendment. Sen. McConnell responded by making it clear that the objection to the vote came from the Democrat caucus. Sen. McConnell also noted that the Democrats similarly objected to provisions in last year’s ethics package, ultimately killing the overall measure by voting against cloture. Sen. Reid’s devastating riposte was to explain that the disagreement was not about the substance of the amendment, you see, but was over the time allotted for debate. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) chimed in by complaining that last year’s cloture vote on the ethics bill was taken after only one amendment and the Democrats have allowed consideration of 12 amendments to the current bill.

Earlier in the week, Republicans threw the Senate into chaos when they defeated a motion to table Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) amendment to S. 1. The DeMint amendment simply inserted the same rules on earmark disclosure into the Senate bill that had been approved by the Democratic House. When a vote on the amendment was finally held, it passed 98-0.

The fact is that Democrats object to the Gregg amendment and the DeMint amendment because they aren’t really against earmarks. They only wanted to campaign on the issue, not actually do anything substantive about it. Now that they are in the majority, they want all the perks of office; and that includes easier access to taxpayer dollars for their constituencies and their re-election chances. But feisty Senate Republicans are not letting them have their pork and eat it too. So, Sen. Reid, Sen. Durbin and the rest of the Senate Democrats are obstructing their own bill and explaining. And, as we know in politics, when you're explaining, you're losing." -- Red State

The amendment was blocked by the Senate Democrats.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell issued the following statement on Wednesday after the Senate Democrats blocked U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg’s A Second Look at Wasteful Spending amendment from coming to a vote:

“I’m disappointed that our Democratic colleagues promised a new way of working together, yet blocked a commonsense fiscal measure designed to do just that. Twenty Democrats currently in the Senate supported a similar measure when it was proposed in 1995, yet today they refused to allow even a simple yes-or-no vote.

“Americans demanded reform and we owe it to them. If we are going to continue to pass real reforms, must put politics aside and get to work.” -- Senator Mitch McConnell

As for the future of a line-item veto-type measure, including amendments, there is no future at this time.

As for the vote of President-Elect Barack Obama, his vote was "Nay".

"On the Cloture Motion S.Amdt. 101 to S.Amdt. 100 to H.R. 2 - To provide Congress a second look at wasteful spending by establishing enhance rescission authority under fast-track procedures."

"Cloture Motion Rejected (49-48, 3/5 majority required)"

Nay -- Obama's Voting Record

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