Sunday, January 27, 2008

Presidential Line-item veto?

Giving the release posted below a quick glance caused me to do a double-take. Giving the President line-item veto power is something that is talked about often enough, but rarely does anyone attempt to do anything about it in Congress.

It takes away some of their power for one thing. It also puts the President in play as they bargain and cajole.

All those extras that are attached to bills aren't done simply to sneak something through. They are bargaining chips.

Let's say the Democratic party wants a bill of some sort pushed through but they need 20 more votes. Whoever wants the bill goes to those opposed and those who are on the fence and starts working on them.

"What's it going to take to get you to vote yes on this bill?"
"Well, I'm thinking you need to change this little bit here and it might be easier to swallow."
"Darn, that's one that we've already discussed and we can't budge on that."
"Hmm, let's see. Did I tell you about that bridge I wanted for my constituents? The company that will build it made some huge donations to my campaign."

Yeah, that last bit about the donation to the campaign isn't something I'd expect any of them to verbalize... but we all believe that payback is part of it, don't we?

I'm sure there are many other things in play when it comes to all those "extras" that get tagged onto the end of the bills that slide through. I would imagine they might also be used as a reward for someone who's toeing the party line, or as a help for someone in a tight race needing to bring home some pork.

Give the President line-item veto power and he gets to play in the game, too. Plus, he looks good doing it, too, as he can say he's just saving the tax payers money.

As I've written in previous blogs, neither Party wants to take a chance that a President from the other Party would have line-item veto power. Thus, the bill proposed below really surprised me. My first thought was this might have a chance of sliding through as it's the END of the President's term and the Democrats are probably thinking they've got a good shot at taking the Presidency. It was proposed by a Republican, too!

Then I read the release through to the end. There's a line in there that seems to nullify the idea of a Presidential line-item veto. AFTER he uses his red pen, it then has to be affirmed by Congress. Can you see the cat fights coming? Can you see the extra time it will take to get a bill through? Can you see any real chance of it working any differently than it does now?

I'm going to have to think on this one more and watch to see what happens as it goes forward. I can see that this would give the President more yelling power. He'd be able to bring attention to some of the pork. He'd also be on the line when he DIDN'T call attention to certain additions.

I like a lot of what Isakson is proposing, it's broader than just line-item veto power for the President.

I'm going to read the following release again and maybe, if time permits, I'll go pull up a copy of the proposal in its entirety and see if I can make some sense of it!

Isakson Co-Sponsors Constitutional Amendment to Give President Line-Item Veto Power
1/24/08 U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today announced that he is co-sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would allow the President to use the line-item veto to either eliminate or reduce appropriations in any bill passed by the Congress.

“We must take bold and immediate steps to end the reckless spending that is threatening the future of our nation,” Isakson said. “This amendment will give the President much-needed authority to remove items from appropriations bills that are considered wasteful on a national perspective.”

Isakson noted that governors in 43 states – including Georgia – have line-item veto authority.

Congress passed a line-item veto bill in 1996, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. The 1996 bill allowed the president to cancel, but not reduce, spending items in appropriation bills. The legislation Isakson is co-sponsoring would give the President more flexibility by allowing him to cancel or reduce any appropriation passed by Congress.

“One of the problems we have in America with deficit spending is spending money on projects that by anybody's definition are unnecessary projects,” Isakson said. “We need to have politicians justifying what they just spent rather than promising what they will spend.”

Isakson said he is committed to trying to pass legislation to curb federal spending and to demand more accountability from programs that receive federal dollars. To that end, Isakson has co-sponsored several pieces of legislation in addition to the line-item veto:

· The Stop Over-Spending (“S.O.S.”) Act would create a line-item veto mechanism for the President to use to eliminate wasteful spending and require Congressional affirmation for any deletions proposed by the President. It would implement procedures to automatically slow the rate of growth for mandatory programs if Congress fails to meet deficit reduction targets and reinstate statutory caps on discretionary spending. In addition, the S.O.S. Act would create two new bi-partisan commissions. The first would study the accountability and efficiency of government programs. The second commission would examine and provide solutions to the impending entitlement crisis.

· The Commission on Congressional Budgetary Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies Act would establish a bipartisan commission to review federal agencies and programs in an effort to eliminate federal spending on programs that are duplicative, wasteful, inefficient or outdated.

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