President Bush wants a line-item veto. Never mind that he claims to want it to weed out wasteful spending, none of which has been so egregious (in his mind) to force his veto pen into action since taking office, despite threats to the contrary. Also, the Constitution, and previous Supreme Court rulings, suggest that it’s not an option. The executive veto power is all or nothing. The Constitution apparently means little this decade, though, so it might be helpful to analyze the “problem”:
“A line-item veto would allow the president to remove wasteful spending from a bill while preserving the rest of the legislation,” Bush said in his weekly radio address.
Or he could suggest that Congress send him bills with a narrow focus, rather than omnibus spending bills without any sense of constraint. Or he could veto bills, and attach a Post-It note saying “remove this spending and send it back”. That might work.
“A line-item veto would reduce the incentive for Congress to spend wastefully because when lawmakers know their pet projects will be held up to public scrutiny, they will be less likely to suggest them in the first place,” Bush said.
Or Congress could read the full text of the bills it passes. Or he could read it when it hits his desk, veto the bill, and publicly call the lawmakers who sneak pork into the bills he’s asked to sign on their waste.
“I call on the Senate to show a bipartisan commitment to fiscal discipline by passing the line-item veto so we can work together to cut wasteful spending, reduce the deficit, and save money for American taxpayers,” Bush said.
A commitment to fiscal discipline would mean not proposing such spending waste in the Congress, and definitely not passing such bills. But the Congress hasn’t shown such commitment, nor has President Bush tried to impose it. Instead, he now asks for the power to say “no”, like any good father would. This will work how? Instead of trying to extend his nanny powers beyond the Constitution’s current boundaries, President Bush could lead. He could exercise the power he already has in a prudent manner, without asking for more.
With almost 5½ years of evidence to the contrary, I’m not optimistic.