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Failure of Political Will. aka: Kicking the Can Down the Road.
Author: Raine    Date: 12/01/2011 14:48:27

“The bipartisan interview on the bipartisan proposal was a bipartisan decision.”
That was the response from a Paul Ryan spokesman after he and Congressperson Chris Van Hollen (D) announced a bill to enact a line item veto for the President. Let's get to what this is. From the House Budget committee webpage, we see that H.R. 3521 would enact the following:
Line-Item Veto Authority. Within 45 days of the enactment of an appropriations bill, the President may transmit a special message to Congress proposing to cancel any amount of discretionary budget authority. He can transmit up to two special messages per appropriations bill and two for any other appropriations measure (omnibus, continuing resolution, or supplemental bills).

Procedures for Expedited Consideration. Legislation implementing the proposed cancellations would receive expedited floor consideration and an automatic up-or-down vote without amendment.

Presidential Authority to Withhold Funds. This bill clarifies current law allowing the President to withhold funds from obligation, pending consideration of rescission proposals by limiting the withholding of the amount proposed for rescission to no more than 45 days. This provides adequate time for the President to propose and the Congress to enact a measure to approve rescissions while avoiding an extended period of uncertainty regarding the availability of the funds in question.

Savings Go to Deficit Reduction. This bill devotes all savings from the Expedited Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act to deficit reduction and requires the statutory discretionary spending caps to be adjusted downwards to reflect the savings. Additionally the committee allocations are adjusted downwards by the Budget Committees to reflect these savings.

Nature of the Approval Bill. The Presidential special message to Congress must meet certain requirements, including the dollar amount to be rescinded; the account, bureau, and agency from which the rescission shall occur; and the amount of funding that would remain. The message must also include the text of the approval bill for consideration by the Congress. The President may choose to send two separate messages for a single bill, but may not include the same rescission proposals in both bills.
Basically, the President gets to veto two items in a budget bill and two items in any other bill. -- then, the Congress has to vote on those vetoes.

I have never been a supporter of the line-item veto. It's something that I was disappointed with when President Obama said he would support it. I didn't agree when President Clinton was granted this authority. Each branch of government is granted specific responsibilities in the Constitution. It's not a partisan thing for me, I feel it just gives the Executive branch too much power. It doesn't matter what party is in office. You will recall the Supreme Court said this is well. From the Washington Post in 1998:
Unlike earlier laws giving the president discretionary spending authority, "this act gives the president the unilateral power to change the text of duly enacted statutes," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

Such line-item vetoes are "the functional equivalent of partial repeals of acts of Congress," he said. But "there is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend or to repeal statutes," he added.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy cut to the political chase. "Failure of political will does not justify unconstitutional remedies," he said in a concurring opinion.

The decision comes as a blow both to Clinton, who used the new power 82 times over the past 18 months, and to GOP leaders, who made the line-item veto a marquee item in their 1994 "Contract With America."
It is clearly stated in the Constitution that Congress is required to pass legislation and be presented as such for the president to either sign or veto.

According to The Hill, this particular piece of legislation "gets around this by giving the president the ability to request cancelations of budget authority in specific appropriations bills and for that request to receive fast-track procedures in the House and Senate. The request would receive an up or down vote and could not be amended." It still doesn't pass the smell test for me. As Justice Kennedy said in 1998: "Failure of political will does not justify unconstitutional remedies". I could not agree more. I still don't see how this proposal helps anything. The president can veto something, but then it needs to be approved AGAIN by Congress?

Am I missing something here? As Paul Ryan said to MSNBC
“Both Republicans and Democrats have messed up this system. They have given us a lot of wasteful spending. We think this is a good tool that both of us agree on on going after that wasteful Washington spending.”
Take a watch:
They want -- and I quote Paul Ryan here -- this tool to embarrass the wasteless spending out of these bills. Once again, I ask -- am I missing something here? They are basically kicking the can down the road - literally, to the White House - with the caveat that they claim it's constitutional: we get to revote on the line item that was vetoed. I'm not a constitutional lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn -- this looks like the same old same old just shined up all nice and pretty so Congress can pass the buck to the White House with little or no responsibility to their own constitutionally required responsibilities.

It's 1996 all over again. Let's go back to that Washington Post Article. Allow me to edit it a bit:
Passage of the legislation in 1996 2011 and its implementation in 1997 2012 climaxed more than a century of struggle by presidents for this new authority. It was a rare unilateral yielding of power by Congress to the chief executive, prompted by Congress's increasing concern over its own lack of fiscal discipline. President Clinton Obama, who had line-item veto powers as governor of Arkansas, signed the bill with relish and moved quickly, although cautiously, to begin trimming spending bills.
Remember, again, the Supreme Court knocked it down then, why would this time around be any different? The basic problem here is the same as it was in 1996: Congress has a failure of political will. Moving the deck chairs around doesn't change that reality. A very cynical part of me believes this would give the GOP room to blame the President for the vetoes that might occur if passed.

For me, this is about constitutional responsibility. To be very honest, H.R. 3521 doesn't do anything to help create jobs. As a matter of fact, in reading this legislation, it creates MORE bureaucracy and layers of confusion in Congress. In other words, it makes things more difficult and the process longer -- only now it further involves the Executive branch. Pretty sure that won't fly well with some people.

Let me make this clear; with regards to this mess of a Congress: Both sides did not do this. I find it peculiar that the last time this 'Line-Item Veto' issue came up -- and was subsequently shot down by the Supreme Court -- was when the House of Representatives had a GOP majority and the Executive office was a Democratic party member. So, that leads me to ask, who really doesn't have the political will and why does the GOP always need a father figure to fix things? Justice Kennedy was right then, and his words are still right today. If Congress really wants this -- it needs a constitutional amendment.

Or it could be this:

"The bipartisan interview on the bipartisan proposal was a bipartisan decision.”



50 comments (Latest Comment: 12/01/2011 23:18:28 by Raine)
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