Today President Obama’s deficit commission met for the second time and the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Congressional Accountability and Line-Item Veto Act of 2009, which would give the President greater authority to control federal spending.
Heritage expert Alison Fraser testified before the Committee on the likely effectiveness of the proposal, which would allow the President to send spending reductions back to Congress for any legislation they passed. The President currently has this ability—what would change is that Congress would now be required to hold a yes or no vote on the President’s proposed rescissions within a specified timeframe, giving this presidential authority more teeth.
Though this is a step in the right direction to control federal spending, this legislation is unlikely to have a significant effect on the budgetary problems facing the federal government. Fraser explains that “Of the $43 trillion in federal spending since 1990, Presidents have proposed rescinding only $20 billion, and Congress has approved just $6 billion—just 0.01 percent of all spending.” President Ronald Reagan was the most aggressive user, submitting 602 requests to Congress that totaled $43 trillion. Only 35 of these were granted. If the past is any indicator, presidential rescissions will not make a huge impact on spending.
The ability to hold Congress to a vote on spending rescissions would strengthen the President’s ability to cut spending, but Fraser explains that though “this is certainly an improvement, it is only a slight one and will not likely have a major impact on the trajectory of federal spending in and of itself.”
In considering this legislation, Congress must ensure that it does not detract from the bigger picture of spending control and the pressing need to rein in mandatory or entitlement spending, which is exempt under the enhanced rescission authority.