President Obama asked Congress to give the executive branch new powers to cut pork-barrel projects from appropriations bills in an effort to rein in government spending. And Sen. Russ Feingold said Wednesday he will push the Senate to pass the president's proposal this year. [See where Feingold's campaign cash is coming from.]
The proposal mirrors the line-item veto power struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court during the Clinton administration that allowed presidents to target and kill parts of an enacted bill. Obama's proposal, however, gives Congress the final say in the decision.
The Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010 gives the president 45 congressional working days to weed through a newly enacted spending bill, pick out excessive projects and choose to rescind or reduce their funding. Congress would then be required to approve or deny the budget cuts within 25 days. However, neither chamber would have the power to amend the president's eliminations package.
The president already has the authority to recommend legislation or recisions and Congress can decide whether and when to bring the recommendations to the house floor. The new proposal expedites the current process and requires an up or down vote by Congress.
The proposal comes during a mid-term election season where an anti-establishment, anti-government spending mood is at the forefront of political dialogue. Feingold has been a strong advocate of the administration's proposal to curb excessive spending and, along with Republicans Sen. John McCain and Rep. Paul Ryan, introduced a bipartisan bill back in March to reinstate the president's power to a line-item veto. [See which industries give the most to McCain.]
"We know it will be an uphill struggle," said Feingold at a Senate Judiciary hearing to discuss the legality of the proposed executive power. And in the meantime, Feingold requested that "the administration not wait until it has a line-item veto to aggressively challenge wasteful spending and unjustified earmarks."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats "look forward to reviewing the president's proposal and working together to do what's right for our nation's fiscal health and security, now and in the future."
But Obama's proposal met opposition from both parties. "The elected representatives of the people know a lot better than any bureaucrat in Washington as to what are our spending priorities should be," said Sen. Robert Byrd in a statement. [See how much money Byrd is raising.]
House Minority Leader John Boehner pointed to the president's existing authority to recommend legislative recisions and asked that Obama force Congress to consider spending cuts immediately. "With our national debt nearing $13 trillion […] why can't we start cutting wasteful Washington spending right now."
Still, the administration says there needs to be clearer and faster procedure to cut unnecessary spending not only to ensure Congressional action but also to serve as a preemptive measure. Jeffrey Liebman, acting deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget said at the Judiciary Committee hearing, "Knowing this procedure exists may also discourage policy makers from enacting such spending in the first place."