Monday, May 24, 2010
Obama's "Line Item Veto"
The White House today sent legislation to the Hill that would allow the President to "rescind" objectionable spending items, sending a rescission bill back to Congress for fast-track consideration. The proposed legislation, the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010, establishes provisions for the President to sign legislation, but send back a rescission package of particular spending items for full House and Senate approval, thus initiating new legislation that would amend the just-signed bill (and satisfy the Constitution's requirements of bi-cameralism and presentment). The only innovation in the proposal is the fast-track process, which requires the House and Senate to consider the rescission bill quickly and without amendment; otherwise the process operates just as if the President were proposing new legislation.
As we wrote earlier this month, the proposal is designed to give the President flexibility in considering legislation that contains all manner of objectionable spending items while side-stepping the literal line-item veto, which the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in Clinton v. New York.
The approach will have another effect. It will require Congress to consider in isolation, and thus publicize, certain spending measures that otherwise might be buried in voluminous legislation and spending bills. The approach will require Congress to publicly own its spending, or to publicly disavow it, and to allow We the People to respond accordingly. In contrast to the earlier line-item veto, which by-passed the ordinary democratic process for enacting legislation under the Constitution, this approach is democracy-enhancing.
But this will (obvoiusly) only work for those spending measures to which the President objects, and not those spending measures--perhaps equally objectionable--to which both the President and Congress assent.