On Monday, May 24, 2010, the White House submitted a legislative proposal to allow the president to move rescission packages through Congress. House Republicans have long supported and authored enhanced rescission and line item veto proposals and welcome any effort to reduce government spending. However, the Administration already has the authority to propose spending cuts through an expedited process and has chosen not to use it.
The President's Proposal
The "Reduce unnecessary Spending Act of 2010" would replace the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, which Republicans passed to give the president the power to eliminate excessive Congressional spending, but was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998. The bill would give the president the authority to send a legislative package to Congress making rescissions to appropriations bills. If such a proposal is sent to the House within 45 legislative days of the appropriation's enactment, the un-amendable rescission package would then move through the House and Senate under fast track procedures and receive an up or down vote.
The President's Inaction
While many Republicans have long supported such enhanced rescission proposals, current law is not without avenues for the president to propose spending cuts under expedited procedures, yet to date President Obama has refused Republican calls to do so. Under the Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the president may send rescission proposals to Congress with specific instructions that they be considered under special procedures. Even if the legislation is not reported by the appropriate committee, the proposal to reduce spending could be discharged and brought to the floor, "if supported by one-fifth of the Members of the House involved." Under these procedures, the President would need only 88 Members of the House to bring spending cuts to the floor, yet he has not acted with a Republican Minority willing and ready to cooperate. Why is President Obama now making public declarations about the need for enhanced rescission authority when he won't use the power he already has? If the president is serious about reducing spending and not just trying to score political points, Republicans are willing to discharge rescission bills using the legal authority that already exists.
Democrats Saying One Thing, Doing Another
While the President talks about fiscal responsibility, Republicans have been forced to go it alone when trying to cut spending. In announcing his plan, President Obama said, "Despite the progress we have made to reduce earmarks and other unnecessary spending, there is still more work to be done." Since the president sees reducing earmarks as progress, why has he failed to support House Republicans self-imposed ban on earmarks this year so that the system can be reformed? If the president is serious about spending, he should be encouraging his fellow Democrats to support Republican efforts on earmarks. Likewise, Speaker Pelosi said, "The Democratic Congress and the Obama Administration share a strong commitment to fiscal discipline and common sense in our budget." If that's true, why are Democrats ignoring America's fiscal crisis by refusing to pass a budget in the House for the first time since the 1974 Budget Act? And why have Congressional Democrats sent deficits skyrocketing by ten times, from $160 billion in 2007 to a projected $1.6 trillion in 2010? In a similar fashion, the president created a debt commission which doesn't actually report suggestions for months, until after the election. In short, the president and Congressional Democrats have talked much about reducing spending while doing the exact opposite; it's difficult to have confidence that this new proposal will bring about any real change in Washington.
Hopefully Democrats Will Actually So Something This Time
House Republicans support giving the president the ability to cut wasteful spending from Congressional spending bills. Unfortunately, the reckless spending of this administration and the Democrat Congress make it difficult to believe that this proposal will actually represent anything more than political positioning as an election approaches.