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Holding the Dems feet to the fire on fiscal discipline
Posted by: mcq on Wednesday, January 17, 2007

According to Senate sources, there's a fight brewing right now about a potentially significant step forward for budget, ethics and earmark reform. Apparently Republicans, taking Harry Reid at his word, have proposed an amendment to the ethics bill which would help reduce wasteful spending.

Introduced by Republican Senator Judd Gregg, it is a way to require specific Congressional approval (or disapproval) for waste, pork and unnecessary spending items that get tucked into large bills.

Essentially, the Gregg amendment would allow the President to send up to 4 rescission packages per year back to Congress which would force Congress to take a second look at wasteful spending - including both discretionary spending and new mandatory spending – as well as targeted tax cuts.

— Congress would be required to fast track the President’s recommendation within 8 days.

— Unlike the previous 1996 line-item veto proposal, A Second Look at Wasteful Spending requires Congressional affirmation of the President’s rescission package.

— Savings from rescissions passed by Congress must be used for deficit reduction.

— The authority sunsets after 4 years – giving Congress the ability to evaluate merits of rescission authority after President Bush and his successor have had the opportunity to use.

Sounds like a winner to me. Seems to me that if indeed Mr. Reid is to be taken at his word, i.e. “We need to restore fiscal discipline...” as he stated on Jan. 9th, then he'd be all for this sort of an amendment.

But thus far, he's resisted it mightily. Not surprisingly, Dianne Feinstein is, well, lost:
“It is impossible to understand.”
Yeah, I know ... it's that combination of words - you know "cut" preceding "spending" - which makes it incomprehensible to folks like DiFi.

So far, Harry and Company have been anything but inspiring in their leadership toward the promised fiscal responsibility. And, so far, Senate Republicans have been doing a splendid job of holding their feet to the fire.

UPDATE: From a Senate staffer:
Senate Republicans this evening defeated a motion offered by Democrats to cut off debate on the lobby and ethics reform bill. The debate got hung up on an amendment offered by Senators Gregg and DeMint to give the President line item veto/rescission authority. Majority Leader Reid was reportedly working with Senator Gregg to achieve a compromise but West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd intervened making it clear to Reid that he would object to voting on the Gregg-DeMint amendment now or anytime in the future. As such, Reid acquiesced to Byrd's demands and continued to disallow a vote on the measure.

Gregg's [line item veto] provision is nearly identical to a provision that Byrd himself offered in 1995 under President Clinton.

Last week Reid and the Democrats tried to kill earmark disclosure; this week they are working to kill earmark reform. This bill is not serious if it doesn't include measure to actually reduce earmarks.
You don't say? But color me unsurprised. I never thought the Democrats were really serious about it to begin with. Heh, and always nice to hear from Bobby Byrd, isn't it? You can always count on him to be opposed to reforming pork barrel spending, can't you?
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
A terrific opportunity lost......
 
Written By: darohu
URL: http://
Line item veto should have been the LAW of the land from day one! It’s required for any administration to be able to cut pork out of the thousands of lines they add and billions of overburden to our resources in this nation. Oh do not be misled, it will as well be used to garner votes for some items the admin desires to pass as well. Life is such a bitch at times aint it?

It should also be made mandatory that 100% or the so called "earmarks" be exposed to the general citizens! With a mandatory of 90 days citizen comment period. The current pres does not have to abide by said comments, but a wise one would be listening to them.

WE the people actually thought we had such a few years ago. But once the lawyers running our congress farked us out of it.

 
Written By: TC
URL: http://
A Second Look at Wasteful Spending requires Congressional affirmation of the President’s rescission package.

and is therefore unconstitutional. US Constitution, Art. I, sec. 7. The President doesn’t have the power to force the Congress to do anything. The method for changing spending decisions, also set forth in section 7, requires that the President veto the bill and allow for Congressional override by a 2/3rds vote.

Line item veto should have been the LAW of the land from day one.

but it ain’t. Get the votes to amend the constitution to allow for it.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
Francis,

Maybe the Constitution doesn’t allow for rescission, but I doubt it. I understand the Constitutional objection to a line item veto, this seems to meet them. Congress isn’t being forced to do anything if they allow the President to disaggregate from omnibus bills areas which they then have to vote on explicitly with only a majority vote as opposed to a veto. I am certainly willing to let the concept go before the courts.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Lance, it looks to me like an unconstitutional delegation of Congressional authority to the executive. I also question the timing: it’s a little hard to accept the notion that this is a critical fix of Congress’s abuse of its budget power just when the Democrats are taking power, especially considering it’s a massive shift of power to the executive. As to the notion that it would bind a Republican Congress in 2009 if the President were Republican, just remember that each act of Congress is co-equal with every other, with later in time superceding acts taken earlier in time. That recission power would vanish like a snowflake on a summer day in the first omnibus spending bill.

If it’s such a good and constitutional idea, even if the Republicans take the Congress in ’08 while the Democrats take the White House, I’m sure that Gregg will propose it again.
 
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
I also question the timing: it’s a little hard to accept the notion that this is a critical fix of Congress’s abuse of its budget power just when the Democrats are taking power, especially considering it’s a massive shift of power to the executive.
It isn’t a massive shift of power. Nothing happens without congress voting on it and it requires nothing but majority vote. It is about clarity and transparency.

Who cares about the timing? Many of us argued for not giving support to the Republicans to encourage them to go back to their anti-spending roots. If we get that result it only works of we support them for doing so. Doubt the sincerity all you want, I doubted the Democrats. I know the Democrats were insincere about this stuff, and now they are opposing anything that puts any teeth into the earmarking and favor rolling reform efforts. The Republicans may be insincere as well, but the vote is the same whether sincere or insincere. If the Republicans backtrack later I’ll be glad to roast them. The important thing is the passing of bills with teeth. Allowing the President to comb through all the provisions snuck in in the dead of night and rescind them for a separate (though aggregated) vote is part and parcel of getting this stuff under control.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Lance, it looks to me like an unconstitutional delegation of Congressional authority to the executive.
That is because you can’t read. Without explicit Congressional approval, the recission is null and void.
I also question the timing:...
...yada yada yada.

Lance dealt thoroughly with the immediately above quoted bleat.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I’d be more impressed if Sen. Gregg had introduced that legislation sometime between 2001 and 2006.
 
Written By: Steven Donegal
URL: http://
I’d be more impressed if Sen. Gregg had introduced that legislation sometime between 2001 and 2006.
So would I, but what does how impressed we are have to do with the substance of it now? Nothing.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Actually it has everything do with it, because the Rs aren’t about substance. If they were, this bill would have passed when they controlled things, as would solid ethics legislation and earmark reform.
 
Written By: Steven Donegal
URL: http://
It used to be, before 1974, that the president was not Constitutionally required to spend the money that Congress appropriated to the executive branch. The result was that from time to time money that the Congress appropriated just didn’t get spent (i.e., anything the President thought was unecessary or "Pork"). Post Watergate the country gave the Democrats giant majorities in the Congress and Senate in order to "clean things up". Instead they enacted legislation eliminating the Executive’s discression in such matters and giving Congress a blank check. The "Earmark" was born. The national debt has increased every year since that piece of legislation and will for the forseeable future.

Why not get rid of that piece of legislation and the President will have a line item veto? Of course President’s in the modern era rarely used this authority to eliminate wasteful spending and deficits (because Presidents love spending too), they ususally weilded it for purely political reasons. But hey, that’s how the system of Checks and Balances is supposed to work. The Constitution was not written in order to get the machinery of Politics out of the way so that Benevolent Statesmen could maximize the common good. It was written in order to use the natural propensities of slimy politicians to keep the natural propensities of other slimy politicians in check.

Just another example of politicians writing laws to try and mitigate the negative effects of other laws they have written, instead of eliminating the law that caused the problem in the first place.
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
and is therefore unconstitutional. US Constitution, Art. I, sec. 7. The President doesn’t have the power to force the Congress to do anything
No, it’s not unconstitutional. The President isn’t requiring anything of Congress, this act is Congress making a requirement upon itself.
 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
Steven,

Once again, this isn’t about keeping score first and foremost. That is fine in determining how you vote at the next election, but in determining what to support as legislation now irrelevant. Is it good or bad legislation? If I believe taxes need to be raised or lowered, who is fighting for that outcome should not enter into the equation. Not to mention the slam against Republicans may have a fair amount of truth to it, but so it would against the Democrats as well. Mindless partisanship as expressed in your statement are what get us into the kinds of messes we are in. Right now, whether sincere or not, it is the Republicans who are pressing for more extensive reform, the Democrats who are resisting it. That the Republicans squandered their opportunity to do something earlier makes no difference in arguing to support their efforts now that they are trying to actually accomplish something and to criticize the Democrats for resisting it now.

DS,

You are correct about the "reform" of the appropriations process in the 1970’s, and the fact the president had even more power over such matters before emphasizes my point about the Constitutional issues being under this process manageable. You are correct that the prior reforms are the real issue, but I can’t see them being altered any time son. This is a step in the right direction, though probably a small one.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
altered any time son
Son should have been soon. I wouldn’t want to sound condescending towards you DS.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com

 
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