Friday, March 10, 2006

And the Second WaPo Editorial: Unroll Your Own Logs

Second interesting editorial in WaPo today.

A Good Line-Item Veto Friday, March 10, 2006; A18(Excerpt)

WE HAVE repeatedly opposed the idea of a line-item veto. So it may seem inconsistent to warmly endorse -- as we do -- President Bush's proposal this week for what he terms the Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006. In fact, though, Mr. Bush is embracing a responsible alternative to the line-item veto, which the Supreme Court struck down in 1998. His bill raises none of the constitutional problems of the earlier law; nor does it raise the same concerns about concentrating power in presidential hands. While it will do much less than is often pretended to diminish the deficit, it would be a useful open-government tool to combat the gross proliferation of congressional earmarks...

Mr. Bush's idea does not so alter the checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches. Under his proposal, the president could not nix part of a spending bill; he could, however, temporarily freeze a spending item and request that Congress rescind it. Congress would be obliged to act on such requests quickly, without amendment and with no possibility of filibuster. If a majority of both houses of Congress stood by the provision, the president's action would have no consequence. If, on the other hand, the spending were a single member's pet project -- a bridge in Alaska, say -- Congress as a whole might not stand by it. The bill, in other words, gives the president not a line-item veto but a device for forcing individual votes on line items buried within larger spending packages.

This makes sense. It might not do much to control the budget, both because pork makes up a small component of the deficit and because the president may be as reluctant to offend congressional appropriations barons as are other legislators. But the bill could spotlight earmarks and the corruption that can come with them. Mr. Bush is, to put it mildly, an imperfect champion of any measure to discipline out-of-control spending; he hasn't once used the veto he already has, while signing into law plenty of pork-filled spending bills. Yet the messenger's flaws should not prejudice the message. This bill deserves consideration on its very significant merits.

I had not heard of this proposal. Very clever, political sciency. Force vote on single item. Breaking a log roll means that you can pick out some of the most rotten toothpicks from the bundle and throw them away.

No single element of an omnibus bill would pass on its own, almost by definition. An interesting proposal, and good on the WaPo folks to support the President in this instance, because: They are right, he's right.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Suppose this form of veto were enacted. Is Bush really going to go after Ted Stevens (as the WaPo editorial seems to hope)? Or is Bush going to go after Robert Byrd and leave Stevens alone? Won't it be the other way around for a Democratic president?

Vetoing a bunch of opposition funding initiatives seems like a nice way to control the campaign message agenda.

The idea is interesting, but it seems more careful thinking is in order before treating it as a panacea to our spending woes.