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This article originally appeared in The North Carolina Conservative.com
It’s finally on the agenda. Reformers in Congress are battling appropriators on a number of fronts to try to restore control over runaway spending. Up next: a vote on a revised line-item veto measure. You may recall that the line-item veto was passed in 1996 as part of the original Contract with America, but that the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. This new version should pass Constitutional muster and give the Administration a new tool to try to control runaway spending.
• Pork-barrel spending continues to grow each year. Since 1991, federal spending on pork projects has increased by 900%.
• In 2006, Congress added 10,000 earmarks to its appropriations bills at a cost of $29 billion to taxpayers. This does not include pork projects added to authorizing bills.
• Many of these projects are quietly inserted into the conference reports of appropriations bills where Congress is unable to eliminate them using the amendment process. In fact, the only time that Congress actually votes on these items is during an up-or-down vote on the entire conference report, which includes spending for many essential government programs in addition to the pork-barrel earmarks. This allows many questionable spending projects to sneak into bills and fosters an environment ripe for ethical violations.
• The current tools at the President’s disposal do not enable him to easily combat these wasteful spending items either. Even if the President identifies numerous pork-barrel projects in an appropriations bill, he is unlikely to use his veto power because it must be applied to the bill as a whole and cannot be used to target individual items.
• Furthermore, the President’s current rescission power to target individual items is ineffective and does not require Congress to act on his requests.
The Solution: The Legislative Line-Item Veto Act of 2006:
• Provides the President with the authority to propose the elimination of wasteful spending items and narrow special-interest tax breaks included in broader legislation that arrives at his desk for signature.
• Preserves Congress’ power of the purse under the U.S. Constitution by requiring an up-or-down vote in both chambers under an expedited process in order to effectuate the President’s proposed rescissions.
• Sheds light on the earmarking process and acts as a strong deterrent to the addition of questionable spending projects in the first place.
• Congress must act now to give the President this tool to help bring transparency, accountability and a dose of common sense to the federal budget process so that we may stop the proliferation of wasteful spending and work to reduce our nation’s large budget deficit and debt.
1. The President identifies an item of wasteful spending or a special-interest tax break in legislation that is being signed into law.
2. The President submits a special message to Congress, asking for the rescission of a wasteful spending item or items.
3. House and Senate leadership have two days to introduce the President’s rescission request. After three days, any Member of Congress can introduce the President’s rescission proposal, virtually guaranteeing congressional action.
4. The rescission bill is referred to the appropriate committee, which has five days to report the bill without substantive revision. If the committee fails to act within that time period, the bill is automatically discharged to the floor.
5. The bill must be voted on by the full House and Senate within 10 legislative days of its introduction, with a simple majority required for passage.
6. If the House and Senate pass the President’s rescission, it is sent to the President and becomes law. If either house votes against it, the rescission is not enacted.
Now that we have had our civics lesson, let’s encourage Congress members to pass the line item veto and hope that it gets spending under control and their hands out of our pockets.
Joyce Krawiec is NC Grassroots Coordinator for Freedom Works.