Perhaps Congress can agree on something after all.
A bill in the Republican-controlled House would give President Barack Obama more control over federal spending - but not the ability to spend more money, only to save it. The proposal would give Obama and future presidents line-item veto power.
The bill, as described in wire service reports, would allow a president to select specific items in a spending bill for elimination. Think of it as a reverse earmark.
At one time, the president had such authority. Sixteen years ago, another Republican-controlled Congress gave another Democratic president line-item veto power. But two years later, the Supreme Court nixed the law. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress, not the president, budgetary authority.
This time, the bill essentially would have the president propose cuts to discretionary spending in legislation. The House and Senate would have to approve any reductions before they became law.
Thus, the bill might pass constitutional muster. Whether it also would pass in the Senate is another question.
The extent of the proposed veto power needs to be made clearer. Could a president just recommend eliminating expenditures from spending bills? Or could a paragraph, sentence, clause, phrase or even a single word be crossed out? Either could have an impact on public policy.
A short-term effect of passing the line-item veto legislation would be to help Congress shed the do-nothing image. A long-term effect would be to reduce spending.
It's important to remember that in the brief time a president could wield the line-item veto, $2 billion in spending was avoided. How much more could be cut if the president could earmark spending for exclusion on a continuing basis?