President pushes for new authority to nix unnecessary spending

The White House has proposed legislation which would provide the president with a new tool for cracking down on spending. The legislation would establish an expedited procedure under which Obama could submit funding rescissions, or cancellations, back to Congress after a spending bill is passed, forcing an up-or-down vote on those rescissions.

The 2010 Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act, which Obama is sending to Congress on Monday, would require Congress to consider the president's recommendations that certain elements of a spending bill be rescinded as a package, and a vote on that package without amendment held within a specific timeframe.

"The proposal provides the president with important but limited powers that will allow the president and Congress to work together more effectively to eliminate unnecessary spending, including earmarks," said Jeffrey Liebman, acting deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. "Knowing this procedure exists may also discourage policymakers from enacting such spending in the first place."

The authority would be limited to changes that affect funding levels under discretionary spending and nonentitlement mandatory spending.

"The president… cannot use this authority to make any other changes in law such as new transfer authority, supplemental funding or any changes in the authorizing legislation," Liebman said.

During a Monday conference call with reporters, OMB officials were careful to describe how the authority that the bill would establish differs from the line item veto provisions the Supreme Court struck down in 1998.

"The line item veto gave the knife to the president; that was unconstitutional. Here we are providing a way for the president to give the knife back to Congress to help it cut out unnecessary fat," said OMB Director Peter R. Orszag.

Liebman said the proposal was "carefully crafted to preserve the constitutional balance of power between the president and Congress."

Orszag said widespread concern about wasteful spending and efforts on Capitol Hill to curb unnecessary spending indicates that Congress could be willing to pass the legislation.

"Those who are most concerned about our fiscal trajectory, who recognize that discretionary spending is not the end-all, be-all, but can be a part of a movement towards overall fiscal discipline, are eager to look for tools that will help us reduce unnecessary spending whenever and wherever possible," Orszag said. "I think you will see and embrace from those who are most concerned about eliminating unnecessary spending."

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