Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House voted to give President Barack Obama a limited form of line-item veto in a rare moment of bipartisanship on the federal budget.
The chamber voted 254-173 today to pass a measure that would give the president more power to try to cancel individual provisions in massive spending bills that he currently must accept or reject in their entirety. The bill, H.R. 3521, heads to the Senate, where other line-item proposals have died.
“This is an attempt to take one more step on behalf of the taxpayer to clean up the system on how we spend hard-working taxpayers’ dollars,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. “When we pass large spending bills, we vote on things we’re not even necessarily sure we’re voting on.”
The budget panel’s top Democrat, Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, co-sponsored the measure. The bill also drew opposition from both sides of the aisle.
“The line-item veto would strengthen the president’s ability to give preference to his spending priorities over those of the Congress and the constituents we represent,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican.
Representative Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, said he worries that the president would use the expanded power to target opposing lawmakers.
“He’s going to take our Republican priorities and put them up for a second vote -- and a Republican president would do the same thing to Democrats,” Simpson said. “This is going to be about partisan politics.”
The Obama administration said in a statement it “strongly” supports the plan because it would help root out waste.
A similar proposal in the Senate sponsored by Arizona Republican John McCain has 43 co-sponsors.
The measure passed today falls short of a true line-item veto like those granted to many governors and to President Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s. The Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that the federal line-item veto violated the Constitution because it would let the president amend laws without congressional approval.
The current bill seeks to get around that concern by giving the president the power to require a vote in Congress, within 60 days and without amendment, on whether to uphold the proposed cuts. It could be used only to target discretionary spending, not entitlement programs or individual tax provisions.
The bill would require lawmakers to “think twice” about adding provisions to spending bills, Ryan said, because they may end up having to publicly defend the provisions if the president seeks to cancel them.
“The measure of success of this reform will not be measured by how many individual spending line items get voted out of spending by Congress, but how many items don’t get put in these bills in the first place,” Ryan said.
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