CHN: House Bill Gives President Line-Item Veto Authority
On February 8, the House passed the Expedited Legislative Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Actof 2011. The bill (H.R. 3521) gives the President the authority to propose eliminating spending
he considers wasteful in appropriations bills sent to his desk for signing. Under this legislation,
the President would have 10 days after signing an appropriations bill to submit proposed
rescissions (cuts to programs in the bill) to Congress, which would have three legislative days to
bring the rescission package to the floor for an up-or-down vote. If either the House or Senate
rejects the measure by a simple majority, it is not enacted. This veto power differs from the lineitem
veto enacted in 1996 and found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court two years later. It
gave the President unilateral authority to cut spending without Congressional approval. The lineitem
veto authority in the new legislation would sunset at the end of 2015 when Congress would
need to vote to continue giving the President this authority.
H.R. 3521 passed the House with bi-partisan support (254-173), with 57 Democrats supporting
the bill and 41 Republicans opposing it. Members of the appropriations committees are more
likely to oppose the line-item veto because it cedes some of their authority to the executive
branch. Among the 48 Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee, 75
percent opposed the bill. The bill was among a package of 10 budget process bills introduced by
members of the House Budget Committee under Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) in the name of
deficit reduction, oversight, and transparency in the budget process. H.R. 3521 is the only bill
among the 10 that Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) co-sponsored
and that has thus far received significant support from Democrats.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) introduced legislation similar to H.R. 3521 in the Senate in
January 2011, the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2011, S. 102. The bill has 44 cosponsors,
including 18 Democrats. Most were co-sponsors when the bill was first introduced
over a year ago when the pressure to show support for deficit reduction was particularly high.
The Senate is currently considering legislation to reauthorize the transportation bill. Senator
McCain is proposing an amendment to the bill that mirrors S. 102. If he is precluded from
offering the amendment, he is expected to offer it on another legislative vehicle this year.
Advocates, like many appropriators, have concerns about ceding too much legislative authority
to the President by giving him line-item veto authority. They are also concerned that programs
benefiting low-income people tend to lack powerful support and are more vulnerable to being
rescinded. Under the bill, savings realized from rescissions would be used to reduce the deficit
further by lowering the stringent 10-year appropriations caps enacted last August. Entitlement
programs and tax increases are not subject to the President’s line-item veto authority.